YOU CANíT WATCH
THEM FOREVER

     My 16 year old son came home from his AAU basketball tournament last weekend with some heartening news.
    "Congratulations, Pops," he said as he dropped his sweat-soaked jersey smack in the middle of our family room. "There was a dad at our game who is a lot wackier than you."
    I felt my heart swell with pride. It was a particularly poignant moment because my son had banned me from attending the weekend tournament.
    "Did you miss me?" I asked hopefully. "Did you look up into the stands and hunger for my approving looks? Did you listen for an Ďattaboyí that never came? Did you yearn for that slap on the back and squeeze of the shoulder on the walk back to the car after the game?"
    He plopped down in front of the T.V. "Nope."
    "If you didnít miss those things," I added, "you surely must have missed my incredibly detailed analysis of your performance along with those of each and every one of your teammates."
    That didnít even get a response.
    "Itís not my fault," I continued. "You should have picked a sport that I know nothing about, like your brother did."
    His 18 year old brother just finished his final high school water polo season. Naturally, I was at every game, and even though I had never played the game nor watched one before he went out for the team, I managed to offer an analysis after each game. The difference was that both my son and I knew I was clueless.
    Basketball was another story. This was my game. I played it for 40 years, and have coached it for 15 years. Iím a basketball junkie. Iíll watch anyone play, anytime. And if it happens to be a kid with similar DNA as me, all the better.
    Besides, most kids appreciate their parents showing an interest in their pursuits. My parents seldom attended any of my games. I told my son that therapy has helped, but Iím still struggling with the sense of abandonment.
    I guess itís all about balance. I think he likes me at his games, but he also needs a little space. When he announced there was an obscure off-season AAU weekend tournament that he was attending, and he saw that I was more excited than he was about the event, he pretty much panicked.
    So I didnít go. I had better things to do, like walk the dog. I didnít need to follow him around and watch him play a stupid game. I had my own life, and I was very content to do my own thing, like walk the dog.
    "So who won?" I asked, nonchalantly.
    Big sigh. "We lost in overtime."
    Overtime. I missed an overtime game. Heís got one more year of high school, and then all my kids are gone. Unless this one grows seven inches and gains 90 pounds over the next year, this will be the end of my spectator days, unless he lets me watch him play college intramurals, which isnít likely.
    Thatís why I never miss games. Once itís over, itís over, and itís over way too soon. I understand the need for space, so I gave it to him. But I also let him know Iíd be there at the next game, like it or not.
    When I go, Iím always positive and encouraging, and have yet to come onto the court and punch a referee. I just like to watch, and then offer my priceless analysis after the game.
    But I can stand to miss a basketball game or two, especially after I one-upped my sons on their other sport---tennis. They both play on their high school tennis team, and tennis happens to be my second favorite sport. Meaning, of course, that I know everything there is to know about it.
    Two months ago, just before the start of the tennis season, I came home and told my sons I had good news and bad news.
    "Whatís the good news?" they asked.
    "You both made the cut and are on the tennis team."
    They looked at each other with suspicion, since tryouts were still a couple of weeks away."
    "Whatís the bad news?"
    I smiled victoriously, knowing I certainly wouldnít miss any of their tennis events this spring. "Iím the new head coach."
     Game, set, match.
 

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