Down By Three

I will forever cherish my introduction to basketball.

 It was a spring afternoon on a Saturday. From out of nowhere two of my fourth grade classmates, Johnny Huffman and Tommy Hinson, were at my house. The invitation was to walk back to Johnny’s house to play basketball.

Permission was granted for me to make this journey. We made the walk along West Front Street to Ridgecrest. The Huffman house was the last on the right corner. In the backyard was a concrete driveway in the shape of a capital “T”. At the top of the driveway was a perfectly placed basketball goal.

All I can tell you is I played horribly that afternoon, but I had the time of my life. And even though my skill sets limited my future play to the church league at our local YMCA, my affection for basketball has never left. 

Of course when you grow up in Burlington, North Carolina, you are in the heart of Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) territory, and I quickly became swallowed up in all things related to basketball in the ACC.

Because my parents were hopeful that I might eventually become a Methodist minister, I developed an allegiance for the team who wore the darker shade of blue uniforms. And, I will also admit that in recent years, I follow the college game from a distance. I get too wound up when I watch a game. There is only so much verbal abuse that a non-responsive TV monitor can take.

I still grumble about the expansion of the ACC. This from my perspective was all about money with no logical consideration given to geography.

The game has given birth to recruiting outstanding players who play the college game for a year, and then depart for the pros—money. For the life of me, I don’t understand why Coach K has bought into this approach. 

From the number of NCAA investigations, the recruitment of college athletes who end up playing basketball appears to be a septic tank. And of course, the NCAA rationale in some of its decisions makes people question— are all of their brain cells working?

And if that isn’t enough, how about the wonderful exhibition of sportsmanship at the end of the game on Tuesday night, January 21 between Kansas and Kansas State. 

In case you are wondering, there was no sportsmanship. In the closing seconds, with Kansas way ahead—a brawl erupted between the two teams. You can go back and watch the replays—a very sad, embarrassment.

I know nothing about the finer points of basketball, but in the last minutes of a game and your team is a head by 20 or more points—why are starting players still in the game for either team? 

Don’t the other members of the team deserve some real on court time? How does the parent of a bench rider feel after traveling hundreds of miles hoping that their son might enter the game for a couple of minutes? Wonder if in those closing minutes a star player is injured? Would the ending of the Kansas/Kansas State game been different if both teams had their starters out of the game?

I’m not sure, but I am slowly coming to the conclusion that there just might be more important things in life to worry about than being down by three points with only seconds left in a college basketball game.

Over the last year, a friend at my local YMCA has been in a battle with prostate cancer. It has been a roller coaster. Good moments, lousy moments, hope, no hope—you know cancer, it is a real septic tank.

At some point in the last couple of months,  I saw my friend, and he reported good news. A recent test revealed his prostate readings were down three points. He was thrilled. He had hope. His doctor had new optimism.

Made me wonder how many people out there are hoping their prostate readings will drop by any amount. Sadly in many instances that hope will never happen. The readings will never drop.

The madness of March will be here before we know it. 

And I am certain that the lives of many fans will be destroyed by the 18 and 19 year old players who couldn’t make a three point basket in the closing seconds of a game.

If this happens to you, hit your personal pause button.

Think about that individual out there in our world who needs a different kind of three in their life. 

Making a three point basket to win or tie a game is nothing compared to the hope they need.

 Especially, if this means living or dying.

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