COLUMN - Return to high school hoops sparks nostalgia

On Saturday night, I was fortunate enough to witness a truly great sports moment. It was totally unannounced and I may have been the only person actually watching the event.

This past weekend, I traveled south with my good friend Kasey Bradley to his hometown of Madison, Ind. Kasey was returning home to pass off the title of Mr. Cub, Madison Consolidated High School's equivalent of homecoming king, at a basketball game. It was during halftime of this game that the "real" event occurred.

Soon after the first half had come to a close, two young boys, neither of whom was probably more than 8 years old, took to the floor. The taller of the two boys was dressed in red warm-up pants and a white T-shirt, while the other, shorter boy wore a pair of black basketball shorts and a navy blue shirt.

After the two boys shot around for a little while, it became very clear to me that any ball that found its way from these boys' hands through the hoop would do so by pure chance. Most of the time, their shots did not even reach the backboard. That, however, did not keep these two young hoopsters from shooting.

Eventually, the boys decided to square off against each other one-on-one. Little did I know at the time, but an epic battle was about to take place.

The game started off slowly. The boy in the red pants, who I will from now on refer to as Red, had trouble controlling the ball during the first possession of the ball game. While dribbling, the ball hit his foot and rolled out of bounds. Red's opponent did not fare much better early on.

The boy in the black shorts, who I'll call Squirt, became distracted when a woman, who was apparently his mother, called to him from the stands to wave. Squirt quickly waved back. This poorly planned move left the ball completely unguarded and Red was able to steal it with some ease.

After these early miscues, both boys were able to settle down and the game really took off.

The contest could be described as a defensive battle. It would probably be more accurate to call it an offensive struggle though. Red and Squirt fired up shot after shot. They were all over the court. Three-pointers. Lay-ups. Hook shots. And a rather inventive spinning granny shot that Squirt threw up. They tried them all. The shots just weren't falling for them.

Following an attempted lay-up by Red that slammed off the underside of the backboard, Squirt controlled the rebound and took the ball to the top of the key. He proceeded to drive the lane around Red. Once under the basket, Squirt tossed up a shot that reached the front of the rim. The ball teetered for a second, then dropped through the net. This turned out to be the only basket of the game.

I went nuts. Well, not really, but I was excited for Squirt. He was the underdog because of his height and he came through.

In a world where professional athletes are paid millions of dollars, given endorsement deals and treated like heroes, it was nice to see two young boys play basketball for what it really is: a game. They weren't the most talented athletes, but that didn't matter to them. They were having fun, and they reminded me what sports are all about.


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