Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday Night Therapy

Another perfect night for Thursday Night Hoops

Thursday Night Therapy
By Aaron M. Smith

The score is 18-17 in a game to 20. The team with 17 points has the ball and the conservative player is thinking “we can still go in twos.” The rest of us know that a three-pointer is the only option.

“I think the odds of winning when you go for two in that situation are dramatically decreased,” says the founding father of Thursday Night Hoops. “Once you go inside, they’re not going to give you anything.”

I’d have to agree.

With the ball checked at the top of the key, the team with 17 points engages in a flurry of passes and picks in wild three-to-four-man weave around the three-point arc. Someone is going to get a shot. It doesn’t matter who or when, but there will be a shot taken. Eventually someone will get an open look.

After 47 seconds (often longer) of passing and cutting and picking, someone is left open from the right wing. A long skip pass finds its way into the awaiting hands of a shooter (we’re all shooters on Thursday night). His feet are set when the ball arrives. He throws up a high rainbow of a shot over the charging fingertips of a defender.

Net. Game over. Twenty to 18.

Players on the winning side smile and slap hands and congratulate each other on a game well played. Players from the losing side have mixed reactions. Some go off to get a drink of water by themselves and analyze every single blasted one of his missed shots. Some just shake their head and smile. Others congratulate the other team.

But no matter the feeling after that game – a win or a loss – there is no better place to be.

 Long-standing tradition

Randy Howe's book is dead on.
I’ve been playing Thursday night hoops for almost seven years (only on visits during the three years I lived in California), but this long-standing tradition has been going on for about 25 years. My father-in-law began this Thursday night game in his backyard with friends from church and from the neighborhood. And every Thursday night at about 9 p.m., a mini line of headlights emerges around the curve destined for what promises to be another great night of basketball.

Terence Mann’s quote in Field of Dreams comes to mind on Thursday nights. “Oh, people will come, Ray.” And on this concrete court of dreams under the lights, people will most definitely come. Rain or not. Wind or stagnant. Whether it’s like a sauna or a freezer, people will come to play on Thursday night.

Thursday night basketball is a necessity for me. By Thursday night, the stresses of the week are just about at their peak. Now, I know my stresses pale in comparison to some and I feel totally blessed. That being said, being home with three children ages four and younger most of the week, my mind and body are in serious need of competition, male camaraderie, and an all-out physical challenge.

I’ve never been more exhausted than I am at about 12:05 early Friday morning after three hours or rigorous exercise on unforgiving concrete. Nothing, however, feels better than that exhaustion, than that pain screaming in my ankles, knees, and wherever I received an elbow on that particular night.

Basketball from every era

I love the group of players we have on Thursday night. We have guys in their 60s who come complete with short shorts and deadly accuracy. We have guys in their 50s and 40s who shoot hook shots and try to run spread offenses. We have guys in their 30s or younger who like to drive to the basket because they never were allowed to (or able to) when they played in high school. It’s a good mix of great people.

The competition is great; everyone has their strengths. We’ve got shooters and rebounders, lock-down defenders, and good passers. In best-of-three series, we almost always go the distance.

There are times, though, when tempers can flare – a bad call here, a misplaced elbow there, a complaint or two that rises above a mutter. But that’s basketball. You can’t battle against the same people for years and years under black muggy skies without getting into a bit of a disagreement from time to time. The guys that show up on Thursdays are great men – businessmen, writers, lawyers, volunteers, and, more importantly, family men. There may be a spat here or there, but I know – at least on my end – that there is a great deal of respect for everyone that steps out there on that court. Nothing is ever personal. Nothing ever leaves the court.   

Thursday Night Hoops is the equivalent of three hours of therapy every week. We all have problems ranging from health issues to work stress to family situations. It builds and builds during the week and somehow, some way, there needs to be a release. Thankfully for all of us, Thursday night is always just around the corner.

To be expected, there have been injuries, too. Broken fingers, torn ligaments, knees that bend in the wrong direction, broken noses, rolled ankles, teeth marks on balding heads, skinned knees, and sore shoulders. We are a tangle of wraps, knee braces, and sports goggles.

But we always come back.

It’s Thursday Night Hoops for God’s sake; we’ve been waiting all week for this.

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic ... The writing is great. There is nothing better than a regular basketball game. I really like your blog.