Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"You Win Some, You..." Carl Schurz Park 1966

Hockey Field 2010
On my 12th birthday in 1966, Dad gave me a basketball. This was an odd present for two reasons: (1) Dad gifts to me always reflected his interests and he hated basketball. (2) I was terrible at basketball.

Right after Christmas 1965, I made up my mind I was going to change that. I would learn to dribble the ball with my right hand, drive in both directions to the basket, and force myself to jump higher. My vertical leap was challenged. When Dad and I played catch he’d sometimes throw the ball a little over my head so he could get a kick out of the short distance I put between the sidewalk and my chubby body with the dead legs. My left handed dribbling was something to watch. Each time I played a new rival I’d drive left, hit two to three baskets with a nasty hook until my opponent figured out "the lack of right" in my game and then I’d be blanketed for the rest of the match. Only reason I played basketball was for a good sweat because it certainly wasn’t pleasurable.

Dad was sick of hearing how much I wanted a basketball from New Year’s through St. Paddy’s Day so he bought the ball to shut me up. On the morning of the 20th, Dad passed the ball to me over Mom’s head as she was doing the dishes. I named it Joe, after my round headed friend, Joe Menesick, from 84th Street. It was Saturday, and I had to try it out down Carl Schurz Park. I thanked and kissed my parents, my brother, Rory, rolled his eyes and I ran down the four flights of stairs into the street.
Hockey Field 2010

As high as I'd ever go 1974
A blast of wind headed west smacked my face on the 83rd Street stoop. I awkwardly dribbled the ball with one hand towards East End Avenue. I avoided the Drive near the water figuring a gale storm was whipping the river up. In the park, at the basketball court in the Hockey Field my left hand was numb and coiled like a cripple. I took my first shot from the top of the key, a doozy. It left my hand on a high arc and caught a demonic stream of air that lifted and carried the ball over the left side of the back board. Losing altitude near the fence, it struck a spike and let out a death rattle, “whisssh,” it hung there disheartened. I walked over to the ball, gave it an up and down but didn’t bother to touch it. It was useless. Like the ball, deflated, I walked home.

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Hockey Field 1964


babette venetianer neil said...

I need to know. What did your Dad say about the dead ball? Was he angry or sorry for you.

Anonymous said...

on my twelfth birthday 8/17 62, my mother bought me a basketball, it was a total surprise. she took me down the park and showed me how to shoot. I'm lefthanded, so I always went lefbut I woold occasionally shoot from the right I always shot and still do with both hands. I last played in 2013, age 63 in a wheelchair

Thomas Pryor said...

Anonymous, I'm jealous you shoot with both hands, and happy to hear you still get to the park. It's one of life's best gifts.