Wednesday, April 27, 2011
To a gym full of cocky teenage boys the message was a shocker:
"Look around," said the coach. "I can pretty much guarantee that not one of you will ever play in the NBA."
As I sat at the high school basketball camp as a middle schooler the assessment seemed rather brutal at the time.
But in the end it was true.
Some kids in that room would play basketball all year round on traveling teams; others, like myself, would lace up the sneakers in the summer for summer ball and then put them on again come October and take them off as soon as the season was done.
But all of us had one thing in common. I can't verify it by remembering if every single player in the room never managed the feat, but considering it was my hometown, I can say with close to certainly that none of us ever played in the NBA.
The coach, who would later coach me in high school, wasn't making his observation to depress us; he was telling us to not count on playing basketball for a living and not to put all our eggs in one basket. We needed to have other interests, to do well in school, to have our priorities straight.
I was never really worried about making a living playing basketball anyway, what with my complete lack of co-ordination and one-point-per-game career scoring average.
But I focused on plenty of other things. In addition to basketball in high school I was in band, drama, youth group and a host of other activities.
In college (where I did not go on a basketball scholarship) I was on the school newspaper, studied abroad, played intramural sports and was a resident advisor. Oh and met the woman who will soon be my wife.
Keeping varied interests is good.
For example, on Saturday I went out to watch the Little League opening day, making my usual swing from Parkdale back to Hood River.
During the opening ceremonies I saw one kid running out onto the field with a Hood River wrestling club sweatshirt on. Hopefully he'll continue to do both for as long as he wants to.
Another did a fantastic job making sure the pitcher's plate was cleaned off. Perhaps a future groundskeeper.
Some others scaled the dugout fence before being shooed off by a parent. Future gymnasts?
Who knows, maybe there is a future major leaguer amongst the group.
In all likelihood, though, there were a bunch of future fathers, mothers, business owners, politicians, store clerks, engineers, accountants, programmers, maintenance workers, fruit packers, lawyers or any other profession you can think of other than baseball.
Perhaps even (parents, hide your children now) a future sports reporter.
Whether they have a love of baseball that lasts one year or a lifetime; whether they put on their cleats all year long or take them off as soon as the season is over to put on football cleats, basketball sneakers, shiny black concert shoes, a stage costume or a work uniform, I hope they keep major league dreams in their heart but remember in their head that it's not wise to hang all their hopes on those dreams.
Besides, if all of us turned out to be major league ball players, we wouldn't have anyone to root for other than ourselves. We would have no one to go to the games and cheer; no one to pass around YouTube clips going "Did you see that!?" and no one to jump off the couch so fast to celebrate a big moment that spray soda and popcorn all over the room and no one like me to write about it.
And that wouldn't be much fun, now, would it?
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BLACKHAWK helicopter flies over Mt. Hood National Forest near Laurance Lake on Friday, Aug. 21. The military aircraft was called in to help police seek a missing hiker from The Dalles. Enlarge