The game that (didn’t get) away


So this is my son Emmett’s third season of playing youth basketball, and he’s never won a game.

That’s right. During his first two years, his teams combined to go 0-16, with most of those setbacks coming by large deficits. On the down side, it was pretty ugly basketball. On the bright side, he didn’t particularly care. Emmett loves defense; in particular, he relishes trying to lock down the opposing team’s best player. If we lose, but that guy barely scores, Emmett is relatively happy.

Anyhow, Emmett is 10, and this season he’s on Oregon. I’m the assistant coach, and last week we opened by losing 25-5 to UCLA. It was worse than the score makes it sound—we barely fired off shots, we repeatedly turned the ball over. our defense was brutal. Afterward, Emmett said two main things.

• 1. Can we go get a Slurpee?

• 2. I’m now 0-17.

Our second game was today, and the head coach had the flu. Hence, I took over. Once again, we lost. But it was excruciatingly close. The kids played extraordinarily hard, we worked a lot on picking and rolling, one boy lost a tooth and another took a hard elbow to the head. We didn’t do anything particularly complicated, but I was reminded that, at this age, simplicity triumphs. I reminded them to rebound, to stick with their guys, to keep moving, to set picks. It was a dogfight until late in the fourth, when we fell behind by six.

Here’s the best part: None of the boys were particularly upset. None of the parents were particularly upset. It was super fun, we played hard, we almost pulled it out but, even having lost, we still got some major exercise and played as a team.

My voice is gone.

My joy is real.

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