Monday, February 23, 2009

Basketball Bug

When we used to go to a lot of Tae Kwon Do tournaments, almost every time one of us would get sick afterwards. Bug-sick. Throwing-Up-For-Hours Sick. The longer the tournament lasted, the higher the probability was that one of us would be hugging the bowl by the next day. We called it TKD Sars. We also had TKD Sars amnesia, where we'd be so pumped for the tournament beforehand that we would never remember this phenomena until someone was throwing up afterward, like clockwork. We considered packing medical masks in the girls' gear bag to wear around the arena during tournaments. We planned on getting those designer ones people were wearing in Hong Kong when the real SARS first hit the scene. Mina wanted a Hello Kitty one and Maya was going to paint big red lips on her's. I would get a denim one and Husband, he didn't care as long as he didn't get the the damned TKD Sars. But we never remembered those either.

Over the weekend Maya participated in her first two-day basketball tournament with her club team. Tons of parents and siblings were crammed together in a gym watching middle schoolers ball it up . . .and this morning Mina is throwing her guts up. Every twenty minutes I hear a little girl version of hard-retching toilet bowl echos, and I rush to her side. Basketball Sars!

Other than that, the tournament was great. It was a learning experience for Maya because it's hard to conceptualize or explain the big difference between practicing and real-live game action until you get out there and play some games. Maya doesn't really understand yet why she gets so nervous or freezes up a bit or loses confidence, and I try to tell her that we practice hard day in and day out just so the freezing and the nervousness and the lost confidence subsides, even a little, once a real game begins. That's true with anything, right? Not just with sports certainly.

The tournament was at Lynwood High School which is arguably one of the tougher neighborhoods in LA. But the Lynwood of today is not the Lynwood I remember 20 years ago. Back then the school was desolate and barren, an almost forgotten place where the frustration of kids left a mark, on the neighborhood and towards the community of people. But today, the high school is entirely and beautifully rebuilt. The community shows life and revival, from the little I saw. I was inspired by the transformation.

In the gym, three courts were running games simultaneously. Mainly middle-school kids ages 12-14, boys and girls, though there were a couple games of 12 & Under girls. These are the best games to watch. You see teeny, tiny superstars in the making and 12 year old girls who have experienced rocketing growth spurts and the basketball court may be the only place where they feel comfortable about that. We have a girl like that on our team. She's 13 and 6'0" -- a big girl, not lanky -- and we shout her praises every time she uses that strong body of hers to muscle the other team in the paint. At the tournament, her dad who is easily 6'7" and her two older sisters, both over 6'2", cheered her on loudly from the sidelines.

On Maya's team, there is a cast of characters. I'm writing the feel-good movie script in my head right now. In the based-on-a-true-story movie version, the team is lead by a sincere and talented coach who knows that basketball is a way to inspire young women to achieve their dreams and build confidence. She's a passionate coach who believes in hard work and team work. The team begins its season on a losing streak. The first few games are difficult because there's no synergy, they haven't gelled yet. The main character is hard on herself for not being better, for freezing in games, for feeling lost sometimes, but her family encourages her because after a lot of practice it will click for her; not only the ability but the purpose. Have fun for godsake, they tell her. Other characters on the team include: The big center who might feel pressured by her tall dad and tall sisters. A very talented 12 year old Russian point guard who was probably too good too young and who now might not know how to bust up to another level of talent. Her dad yells instruction in Russian from the stands. There is the Korean guard - probably the best girl on the team -- because she's all heart and speed. And all hair. She has the fiercest hair cut I've ever seen, adults included, and she rolls up her baller shorts then pulls them down a bit, she rolls her jersey into her bra straps and pulls her socks up high. The girl is fly! (The narrator of the story wonders if it is appropriate to ask a 13 year old where she gets her hair cut.) There's the rock solid forward who plays all blue-collar like: reliable and strong. There's the wild yet still lax guard who is so athletic and still so chill she doesn't hardly ever break a sweat but can still bound up higher than most, when she feels like it. And then there's the main character's nemesis. You gotta have one of those! This forward believes she's God's gift to the team. She's cocky and has a handle for days, meaning she can split two defenders with her dribble more confidently than her teammates. She has a natural ability that she likes to flaunt, but what she flaunts best is her attitude. She blasts her teammates when they don't catch her rocketed passes or when they turn over the ball; she rolls her eyes when they don't make a shot. She argues with the refs in true NBA time-wasting fashion and when Coach pulls her from the game for talking back and other offenses mentioned above, she plops down in a pouty HRMF! on the bench and crosses her legs and arms. It's Nemesis 101, I tell ya. In the first game of the first tournament, Main Character and Nemesis get to bickering on the court because even if Main Character doesn't feel so confident yet, she still doesn't want to take shit from that girl. Coach benches them both. In the end of the movie, the team gels and Main Character's hard work and confidence click. She and Nemesis find respect and a possible friendship. And though the team loses the Spring League Championship by one point, they've all learned invaluable lessons about being a team and about themselves! And scene.

Pure entertainment, I tell you.

I got up this morning at 5:30 to take my regular 6am spin class. I strapped on my new heart rate monitor that Husband bought me yesterday at Costco. As I excitedly fumbled with the straps around my ribcage, Mina appeared in the bathroom doorway. She was rubbing her eyes. "Mami, I don't feel so well," she said. A day of Basketball Sars barfing was about to begin. I held her hair back as she sang into the bowl for the first time and I checked my heart rate. A calm 71, it read.

At the tournament, Coach tries to pull them together.
Lining up against Lynwood.
Working it out in her head.
Back to practice. This is the sunrise from our patio this morning. I lifted Mina so she could see it. It didn't make her feel better, but she thought it was pretty.

9 comments:

Julie said...

You are such a great writer - very inspiring. Your girls are lucky to have such a kick ass mom....

nec said...

Hope Mina is feeling better...

Marigoldie said...

I live for this stuff. Seriously great storytelling, from basketball SARS on down! And have I asked you yet: Have you seen the doc "The Heart of the Game"?

jennifer said...

i want to see that movie! and that haircut.

Molly Chester said...

I love that you lifted Mina to see the sunrise.

madness rivera said...

Thanks, friends.

M - I did see Heart of the Game. Loved it. Loved the coach especially. (I hated the forgetable title though) Our team isn't quite like that. We're more like the team from Sunset Park starring Rhea Perlman!

Marigoldie said...

Crazy thing, I actually didn't like the coach. He creeped me out a little or maybe a lot. But I liked how he kept making what seemed like terrible decisions -- don't blow state just to reward these girls' kindess! don't let the girls self-govern! -- and blam, everyone would rise to the occasion. That really made me think. I liked it a lot and agree that the title doesn't serve it well.

Poundpapi said...

I'm cracking up at your movie summary.

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