Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 04.07.08
Stanstead, Quebec


The silence of my lamb

STANSTEAD, QC | One of the perks of having athletic children is that other parents automatically assume that I'm at least partly responsible. If the subject comes up, I'll usually say something like, "Yup, taught them everything they know." In my head, I'm saying it sarcastically. Just because it sounds to the listener like I'm serious, well, that's their problem, not mine.

I can carry out this charade for only so long. Eventually, though, someone hands me a ball.

The truth is that, except for providing an appropriate number of chromosomes so that they have two functioning sets of arms and legs, I've contributed little to my children's athletic skills. Unless, of course, you count driving them to games and practices. And cheering, I'm a good cheerer:

"Good D! Nice play! Go strong! No biting!"

I suppose I wasn't entirely unathletic as a kid. I was a pretty good runner, and I've always been handy on a bicycle. You'll note, though, that those are pretty solo pursuits involving little or no hand-eye coordination and, more significantly, rarely including authority figures who sigh, roll their eyes, and bench you for the season.

In fact, not counting a stint as a Boy Scout floor hockey goalie (I played for the glory and the chicks), I've managed to avoid team sports for much of my life.

Having watched my own kids play, though, I kind of wish I'd had the chance to play on a team. For instance, I think I could have been good at basketball. Correction: I think I could have had fun playing basketball.

I love the game. It's fast, it's complex. and there are many, many potential ways to screw up. Which is why I tend to avoid it.

In the past month I've had two opportunities to play basketball. And not just 21 and Knock-Out like we play in the driveway here at home. Team play. With other teams. Teams with people on them.

The first was at the high school where I work, the annual faculty-versus-students matchup. I've managed to come up with excuses to avoid this the past two years: I'm technically not faculty; it's critical that someone take photos of the game; I have this terrible premonition that my heart will explode.

So I dodged the game along with certain humiliation.

Then this week, to mark the end of my son James's basketball season, the coaches organized a parents-versus-sons game. There was no way I could say, "Well, I'm technically not a parent," so they roped me in.

Let's start off by confirming that no one got hurt, not even when the parents - disturbingly intent on winning, it must be noted - towered over their 12-year-old sons at the basket, all elbows, grappling for the five or six rebounds they needed to make a single basket.

Which pretty much explains why I pretty much avoided humiliation.

Even when I accidentally passed the ball to the ref or when I blew a breakaway layup or went sliding off the floor or did one of those contorted, flailing things under the basket that you want to see again in slow motion on the blooper reel, I was reassured by one thing: the other parents kind of sucked, too.

I also learned a very important lesson: If you're not very good, cheat. This is only possible, of course, if you are bigger, older and have the power to ground your opponent for a week.

But even with several, shall we say, "generous" calls from the parent-ref, we still managed to lose to the boys by a point, thanks to James's clutch 2-for-2 foul shots. But really, we let them win. Yeah, that's it.

Ultimately, though, I felt pretty good about myself. I had fun, scored some points, stole the ball a couple of times (from that little kid), and my heart didn't explode.

"You know," I said to James on the drive home. "I should play basketball more. I think I'd be good at it. I wasn't too embarrassing out there was I? Eh?"

He didn't say anything.