Winners

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Oregon playing defense (Emmett is guarding the ball handler)

My son Emmett is 10, and earlier today he wrapped his third-straight basketball season without a win.

Or, put bluntly, he’s 0-26.

The first season, I was merely a parent. The second season, I was head coach. This season I was an assistant (to Dave, the lovely head man). Emmett is a guard on Oregon. He wears No. 5, plays feisty defense, rarely scores, loves the games and doesn’t much care for the practices. We joke that he’s the common link over the 26 losses, and therefore it’s all his fault.

The important part of that sentence: We joke.

Emmett doesn’t particularly care if he wins or loses. In fact, he doesn’t care one iota. He plays his butt off, hustles, goes all out—then happily exits the gym and enters the car. To say I love this about him is no understatement. Emmett has no NBA future, no NFL future, no Major League future. He’s an average athlete who plays sports solely for enjoyment and exercise. We celebrate every postgame with some sort of drink, usually a Slurpee at 7-Eleven. For what he lacks as a ballplayer, Emmett excels at the Slurpee machine. I mean, nobody tops off the drink with more skill and dexterity. Nobody.

I digress.

Today’s loss—the last of the season—was a crusher. We faced Arizona, the league’s best team. We led by six at halftime, were tied at the end of the third quarter. Our top backcourt tandem, Ryan and Ryder, was playing their rears off. Our big man, a Dirk Nowitzki clone named McKay, was scoring at will.  We have two bookend rebounders, Mason and Truman, who were owning the boards, and Jason—the glasses-wearing defensive wonder—was locked down on their star, ol’ No. 20. Emmett, who I usually put on the opposing team’s quickest player, held No. 2 scoreless. Lance, a first-time basketball player with a leaning toward football, was his usual aggressiveness personified.

It was all going beautifully.

And then …

And then …

And then …

We fell apart in the fourth quarter.

And lost.

Again.

Glub.

It was, I’ll admit, momentarily crushing. The season is over. We wound up 0-7. Some of the kids were down. One was despondent. Yes, we were probably the least-talented team in the league. But our last few games were r-e-a-l-l-y close, and I wanted Emmett to taste at least a single victory. Actually, scratch that. I wanted Oregon to taste at least a single victory.

Then, midway through the handshakes and the high-fives, I regained my senses. The kids on Oregon are terrific. Truly terrific. Fun, funny, engaging, interesting, entertaining, eager. And our team improved 100 fold. We opened the season falling to Arizona by 35. We ended with the year’s closest game. Our defensive intensity was off the charts. The passing was as sharp as its been. McKay, I am quite certain, will one day be a 6-10 forward/center pulling out and popping threes for BYU or UCLA or Southern Cal. Today, he owned the inside.

I like to believe that, years from now, the 10 kids on Oregon (Charlie and Aiden missed the game) will remember being on a winless team more than had we gone, oh, 4-3 Truly, losing after losing after losing does something for you. It’s a class in resilience, yes. But, really, it’s an understanding that Ws and Ls are vastly overrated when compared to F and L (fun and lessons).

My son is 0-26

He’s pure winner.

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