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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 07.24.14
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Tournament weekends are rough in the end

For years I bought into the myth. I even preached it myself. "I'm so glad my kids are into basketball instead of hockey. It's so much cheaper. All they need is a ball and a pair of sneakers and they're good to go."

Well, that's a lie.

For starters, once your child passes the age of 8 -- when they begin developing opinions and annoying free will -- not any pair of running shoes will do. They need to be basketball shoes, preferably endorsed, imbued with Swïsh-Dunnkk(r) technology and featuring more gels and pumps than a hair salon.

The marketers have convinced kids that wearing the right shoes will help them get to the next level -- provided the next level means jumping 4.5 inches off the floor instead of 4.4 inches.

For a while, we were seriously concerned about how much time our son was spending looking at basketball shoes online. "Shoe porn," I called it. Well, at least it's better than Internet porn, you say. Maybe so, but at least Internet porn is free.

There is much to love about basketball: The relatively quick learning curve, the teamwork, the physicality without the violence, the fact that even smaller players can find a role. It's also ideal for our attention-deficit era -- someone scores, like, every minute! None of this 3-0 nonsense. We're talking 82-75. Fine, some of those 8-year-old games were more like 12-7, but that's still a lot to cheer about.

And I can't stress enough how great it's been that basketball has exposed my children to other races and cultures. This wouldn't be so significant if they hadn't been raised in a town so racially homogenous that if one of my work colleagues had ever moved away, Stanstead's black population would have plummeted by 100 percent.

So basketball is a lot of things but it is not cheap. There are registrations, travel costs, camps, hotels, the aforementioned SuperSneakers, and there is food. So much food.

We've just come off two tournament weekends in a row that included travel and hotel stays. Make that one hotel and one motel, as in when you register at the front desk, the clerk hands over the key card and the TV remote -- that kind of motel.

As long as there are no visible bullet holes or stains of clearly human origin, I'm fine with discount motels. It's one way to cut back on costs so that there's more money for sneakers. The other way to reduce costs, we have learned, is to avoid eating at restaurants for every meal.

This is how you do that, and I'll get to the consequences of doing so in a minute:

  • Coffee and breakfast at home and a coffee to go for that early morning start.

  • Road snacks -- banana, granola bar, maybe a muffin.

  • Drive.

  • Tim Hortons stop (fill up on fresh and "empty out" the old -- and -- ooo! maybe a doughnut).

  • Drive more, then watch basketball for hours on hard bleachers.
  • Tell yourself that groceries will be cheaper than restaurants. Purchase baguette, cheese, bag of carrots, ooo! olives!, two-bite brownies, chips for later, big bag of M&Ms because they're on special, deli sandwich because it looks really good, potato salad, orzo salad, coleslaw because someone thinks orzo is weird, dried fruit, drinks for now, drinks for later, wine of course because what's a cheap motel without cheap wine? Total cost: $72. Not cheaper than a restaurant.

  • Graze through the day, mostly out of the hatch of the car, and during half time, and while driving.

  • More coffee? Why, yes!

  • Have you had French fries yet? You need French fries.

  • The complimentary breakfast includes one of those waffle makers. Have a waffle, even if you don't like waffles, because it's free and you clearly need more batter in your system. Coffee?

  • Sit more. Drink more coffee. Graze and sit and sit and graze.
By now, twenty-eight hours into your tournament weekend, you're probably thinking that you will never poop again.

From the few discreet conversations I've had, I've been relieved (ha!) to learn that I'm not the only one stuck (ha!) with this problem. Apparently, road trip constipation (RTC) has to do with the change in diet and routine, all that sitting, dehydration, and the fact that high school bathrooms are really gross.

This would probably occur during any sports road trip. So what does RTC have to do with the cost of playing basketball? Nothing really. In fact, I think I've gone way off topic. You might even say this entire column is somewhat irregular.

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