All right, look here. Run the high pick, first option. Get the ball inside. You guys all right? Wipe your shoes off. Lots of time. Don't walk. Don't foul. First option. Nothing to it. Like practice.
So they walk onto the court, looking back like babes en route to their first day in kindergarten. And I am thinking the second option might be better as the first option evaporates into a series of steps without dribbles. Harry waits but has to call walking. Thanks, anyway, Harry.
My boys are choking. They go back on defense in bewilderment. Is it a conspiracy? Are they getting back at me for all the laps? I love you guys. A shot is missed, and we flex and rebound. Timeout, Harry. Please.
"Men," I say, "we are going to win or lose this game right now." What an awful thing to say. I explain. We are going to run two picks, which will require seven of the remaining 10 seconds. Marc, if the two picks work, go at the basket. If not, put it up at the foul line. I am proud of you. Listen, you are my friends. I mean that. We are all right.
The ball comes inbounds, as planned. Pick One was nothing to diagram in a clinic, but it was reasonable. It preceded a flying, off-balance, dirty hook shot. There is this about a running hook shot from the free-throw circle: it stinks. So, four, three, etc., buzzer and we lose in a city playoff, and a woman who previously returned a wink made an obscene gesture. Cheerleaders looked at windows. One father wanted to meet me in the parking lot to discuss matters.
All that is left is The Lesson. We will become men, whatever that is, show pride, and we are all going to do that just as soon as we have a big cry.
You cry for them, and for yourself and, unless you plan to win them all, you had better get ready for it. You cannot take your fat contract with you, friend. Your clippings will not fit in the box. Now, let's act calm and go board that feeble bus, which is better than we deserve, and go home and see that this does not happen again. If it should, though, let's make sure the people who beat us are not dwarfs. Practice in the morning. Winning is more appropriate, boys. Win for me. Humor me.
Many people become fans because of benefits that come with the title. You can burn yourself some orange, practice a few choruses of Hook 'em Horns in the mirror, and you are "for Texas," and even though you have never won a game of anything in your life, even checkers, you are an instant winner by association.
You do not have to practice, or spend the night before the game in a sort-of hotel with the team. The Athletic Cabinet never replaces you with another fan. You need not train. You also can have defeat insurance. If the score is going their way, you may leave. You may even go to the game and cheer at the wrong time, or simply go to show off new clothes.
A fan, however, never leaves early. He fights traffic and people, and assumes the role of a parent, really. He is unique, rare, a one-team man. After a loss he feels like smashing cats.