Yesterday was cool and crisp, and Aidan and I packed Lindsay and our basketball into the car and drove over to my parents' house to play some hoops. At least that's what Aidan thought. As he sat on my lap, steering, he bounced up and down as if to embody his question: "Can I play, Dad? Can I play? Can I play?"
Now don't get me wrong. Aidan dribbles like nobody's business. But it's at moments like that, when you have to tell your six-month-old that he needs to sit this one out, that you realize how hard it is to be a parent. I told Aidan that he lacked the interior presence he needed to bang with big men, and that he would need to wait awhile, at least until he was three. He frowned and pulled up his basketball socks to his knees, old-school like, as if to say he had the necessary savvy. I sighed and handed him to Lindsay, suggesting with a subtle glance that he be returned to his car seat before the non-violent protest stage was over.
Sibling games at my parents' place go back a long way. Originally, they were a kind of ego-builder for my brother Johnny and me, as we happily mowed down our two younger brothers and my dad, week after week, while the littlest bro, Peter, would watch from the porch and cry because he was only three feet tall.
This state of affairs could not go on indefinitely, though. Daniel and Paul, the two middle brothers, put on weight and became legitimate players. Then all my brothers started secretly eating Creatine on their cereal and corresponding with Balco, and they got taller than me. Things got competitive, and I had to watch hours of Jacque Vaughn and Paul Pierce footage in order to tune up my game.
These days, all five brothers and my dad suit up, and the games are harder to call. Which is to say, I have to break a serious sweat and shoot fall-away jumpers in order to retain my scoring title. Being the best is hard work.
But on to the central question of this post. Is basketball a means of grace? It is the unswerving contention of this blog that the answer is YES (especially on beautiful Fall days with NCAA hoops around the corner). As Eric Liddell said, "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure."
Not that I'm the basketball equivalent of Liddell (Michael Jordan is 6'5" and I don't break six feet), but I don't have to be for the analogy to hold true, and neither do you: grace flows out of the grippy orange sphere, the hydrogen-rich H20, the sound of my jump shots ripping home. Has God made basketball a means of grace? Well, do nets swish? Do kicks lace up? Does Rock Chalk? Did God love basketball enough to make the world a globe?