I grew up in Kentucky, and my high school boyfriend's best feature, in retrospect, was that his family had fourth-row seats to U.K. home basketball games, and he often took me with him. I haven't spoken to him in years and don't miss the experience, so I was surprised when I found myself nearly in tears with nostalgia last night at a local girls' high school basketball game.
My daughters, at ages 5 and 8, are too young for basketball, of course. However, the high school girls' team has been running a skills clinic for elementary school kids, and it seemed to me a good excuse for running around in winter. They've both improved their dribbling considerably, and Hazel, who previously hardly seemed to care for ball games of any sort, now has to be asked to stop dribbling at bedtime. Last night, the "Little Hoopers" gave a demonstration of their skills at halftime.
This amazing show of basketball skills combined with raw, unadulterated cuteness probably doubled the audience for the girls' game. Unfortunately, most of the audience left after halftime, because it was 8:15 by then - bedtime for the under-10 set on a Monday night. However, no question: the experience whetted my appetite for more. I would happily have stayed to watch the rest.
It wasn't U.K. basketball. Passes were sometimes wild, and even the best dribbling lacked that crisp, easy pacing of more experienced players. The shooting percentages weren't bad, though, and the players clearly cared immensely for the outcome. I don't know what my daughters enjoyed, because the kids were all sitting together. (Typically, I found myself a seat where I didn't feel I'd be interrupting any other conversations, and discovered later that I was sitting with the fans from the opposing team. I haven't quite figured out belonging here.) Emily reported later that in her section they were all cheering for Julie, who seemed to be playing center and made several good shots and some nicely aggressive plays on offense. It is the first basketball game the girls have watched, and I can't help but think of how different the world is from when I was little: I always thought of women's basketball as a secondary sport.
I do know what I enjoyed, and it almost scared me. I found myself wishing I played better myself, wishing I'd played in high school, wishing to be out there with them. Knowing this to be impossible, I found myself hoping that one of the girls plays basketball in high school so I can be a regular fan of the game again.
On the way back across the parking lot to our car, we could not seem to keep the girls from dribbling, and when we got home, they burst out of the car to the driveway. Last night half the driveway was still covered with an inch of snow, and the girls were in shorts beneath their winter jackets. Brian stayed downstairs with them for 20 minutes or so, playing with them. I listened to the dribbling, to Brian and Emily shooting, and to them all happily engaged in the play. I've never imagined basketball for them, because when I think of good running-around sports, I think of lacrosse and soccer and field hockey. I believe in outdoor sports, but last night, at basketball, I was once again in love.