January 23, 2013

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

About halfway through Enzo’s second basketball practice a new kid showed up.  The league is for 4 to 6 year olds, and this kid looked as if he was at least eight, a full head taller than Enzo, who is a good-sized six, and easily twice the weight of the littlest kids who are four-year-old twins. 

What the hell?  Was this kid going to be allowed to lord it over my son?  I could see Enzo checking him out.

Then the kids did a drill where they had to race down the court, and I could instantly see that the new kid was, quite literally, slow.  And inside my tiny heart I was rejoicing, “He’s retarded!  Thank God!”  He can still dunk the ball, but since he can’t do much else, it’s all right.

 As we were getting ready for the first game, Teresa reminded Enzo of good sportsmanship.  No gloating if you win, no moping if you lose,  “Everybody’s just there to have fun,” she said, “It’s not about winning and losing.  It’s how you play the game.”  And as he wandered away she whispered to me, “That is such bullshit.”

I may be the only one who truly doesn’t care who wins or loses, but it’s not equanimity, it’s indifference.  Anyway, we got to the game and it turns out they don’t even keep score.  The Y is so civilized.

One kid on the other team was freakishly good.  He had a three-pointer and a lay-up, and he’d do that thing where he’d skip backwards down the court on defense–you know that basketball thing?

He kept trying to pass it to his teammates, but half the time the ball would just bounce off, and he’d take it back and, once again, make the basket himself.  He could easily have taken on all the kids on both teams. 

After we watched him make about his twentieth basket, Teresa leaned over and whispered, “I am so over this kid–is this what it’s like?”

“Like what’s like?”

“When a kid is really good?  I mean does everyone just hate them?”

“Pretty much.”

I don’t think Enzo is in any danger.

 Teresa was one of those child athletes–always picked first, always feared.  And I think she was wondering if everyone had hated her when she was little.  And I would have to say, yeah, pretty much.