Electronically Home

Once upon an adolescent time, and several midriff inches ago, I was a Blue Devil (though a long way from Durham, North Carolina and the Duke of universities…) That meant, mainly, basketball and football identity, which in both cases started off as a fairly pitiable athletic I.D. but evolved into something that I cared about and found some team success in.

Today in my Inbox were two blasts from my Blue Devil Past, with basketball and Aboriginal heritage in common. One was C.G., a slender, quiet forward on the Blue Devils hoop squads I ended up coaching years after my playing days were done. He played on some pretty bad teams, come to think of it, but they got better and formed the foundation of better things to come. He was a great kid, but I haven’t seen him in years. Launching his second marriage already. The kids are precocious! Heck, I didn’t get there ’til I was 38.

And after not being able to find her for years, I’ve had my third email in two weeks from a long-lost friend, a former resident of the Six Nations Reserve who, against all odds, fell in love with basketball and got good at it. (We’ll call her “Virg”, because, well, that’s her name.) When I was just learning how to shoot the ball, as opposed to winging a two-handed bazooka shot somewhere in the vicinity of the unsuspecting rim, Virg was launching her own unorthodox, long-distance, self-taught shots in our tiny high school gym and making them with amazing frequency. With very little coaching and almost no good competition, she went on to play varsity ball at the community college in The City. I believe this had something to do with her willingness to walk several miles home after practices with her team, guys’ teams, all by herself or with a white kid who also wore 22 and loved the game with the same hunger. (Hello again, Star!)

Thomas Wolfe said, a propos of what, I’m not sure, that you can’t go home again. Mind you, he didn’t have Gmail.

Running Up the Score

Welcome to the Olympics, Italian pucksters! The Canadian women whacked ‘em 16-0 yesterday, and no doubt there will be accusations of running up the score. (Disclosure: I was the goaltender on the receiving end of a 22-0 shellacking when I was 11 or so, and rather enjoyed it; made some of my best saves and learned a lot about being a goalie and about how hard I could focus and try. My team was awful, my coach made a terrible error in scheduling, and I couldn’t lose. Bliss.) The red and white are on a mission, though, and the goal differential as a tie-breaker is a big part of the problem.

But this wasn’t necessarily the worst humiliation for the Italians. Sometimes you can shame a team worse by obviously going through the motions; it may not be so obvious to TV viewers, but the players always know. Hey, it’s the Olympics, kids. You embarrass people all the more by laughing and chuckling while you beat them by 6, and you sure as skatin’ don’t get yourself ready to play the USA.