November 29, 2005


When you're past your prime, you take your glory where you can get it.
At least that's the message of this heart-warming holiday tale from Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

From: Willie
Sent: Sunday, November 27, 2005 11:11 PM
Subject: Thanksgiving three-pointer

Hey guys:

I have a 10-year-old nephew named Johnny Morrow who lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Johnny's showing some real promise as an athlete, and for the past few years we've passed a few hours at family holiday gatherings by throwing around a football, kicking field goals, and shooting hoops.

This year's Thanksgiving family gathering was down the coast in Wilmigton at Jane's mom's house. Johnny and I had an hour or so to kill Thursday afternoon while his mom and dad, Jane, and her mom (i.e., the grownups) were getting dinner ready. So we went out to the concrete driveway where, like most homes in this state (or so it seems), there's a basketball goal.

A full-size, 10-foot-tall basketball goal is way offscale for a fourth grader -- it would be like one of us shooting at a hoop that's about 20-feet tall -- but Johnny was still managing to sink about one out of three. Which was better than I was doing. I'm an old guy now and it's been a long time since I was hitting two out of three jump shots from my favorite spot just to the right of the foul circle. I was hitting maybe one out of six or eight. But finally I realized that my left hand was way out of position when I released the shot, and that's what was causing me to miss so many. Still, it took me a while to make the readjustment.

Johnny asked me how far from the goal is the free throw line, so we got a tape measure to determine the distance. He hit a couple from there, and I threw up a brick or two. I was getting frustrated.

Then he asked where the three-point line would be. So we did some more calculating with the tape measure and got an approximate distance. From Johnny's perspective, it was a long way and he was impressed as only a 10-year-old can be. He asked me if the NBA three-point line was farther away, and I said yeah, a couple of feet farther. So he asked me where the NBA line would be, and I stepped back a few steps and scraped my toe against the concrete and said, Right about here, I'd guess.

So Johnny eyed the distance between my toe and the basket and asked me if I could hit a jump shot from there. I said, well, you know, I used to could, but that was a while ago and I'm not as good as I was then. And he said, "Oh," and I said, Well, gimme the ball, and he threw me a bounce pass and I caught it and dribbled a time or two and put up a jump shot without thinking about it too much.

And I knocked the bottom out of it. It was perfect. A long, arching shot that didn't touch anything except the bottom of the net, and it made that sweet "shik" sound that a basketball makes when it goes through the hoop without touching any iron and only pauses briefly when the twine holds it for a moment before it drops on through the net. It felt great, and for a moment I thought, Well, maybe I'm not so old after all. Then I thought, But nobody had a hand in your face and you weren't down by two with the buzzer going off.

Then I glanced to my right and got a look at Johnny's face, and that made the moment. It was a perfect example of 10-year-old astonishment. Wide open mouth, eyes wide, no affectation. I couldn't have impressed the kid any more if I'd gotten a running start and leaped over the backboard.

So, yeah, I know, hitting a 25-foot jump shot ain't that big a thing but I got a helluva kick out of it, more of a kick than I ever got from any shot I hit when I played high school basketball, and it's nice to know that an old guy can still impress a kid once in a while. And that look on Johnny's face was great.



As a 40-year-old man, I can say that these moments are rare, but when they happen, they are delicious.

Posted by Jeff at November 29, 2005 07:02 AM

Nothing beats the "shik" sound. Nothing.

Posted by: Rommie at November 29, 2005 10:33 AM
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