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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It is basketballs, not beach balls

I'm so old that Santa Claus was in my second grade class.
His mom didn’t drive him to school in a minivan. Nope, he came via sleigh.
Full beard at eight years old. Plus, while everybody else was drinking those small cartons of milk and eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, he was slurping eggnog and munching on sugar cookies and fruitcake.
So don't yell at me about being a Scrooge for what you are about to read, since I was around for the literal Christmas Eve.
But I was talking to a mom in a high school gym the other night. She had a son on the basketball team and was bemoaning the fact that the team practiced over the upcoming holiday break.
The family had rented a condo on the beach in Boca Raton. They had already gotten his plane ticket and everything.
She seemed like a nice lady and all, so I merely nodded my head politely, but I was thinking; She’s obviously not a member of the Clue Crew from the Jeopardy game show.
Not to be impolite ma'm, but playing high school varsity basketball carries some responsibilities. There are kids who were cut from that team who would love to be on the roster. So it means practicing when others are not, and playing games when other cannot. It means sacrificing for the good of the team, and a team that loses half of its players to Boca or Cancun or even Gaylord over the holidays is not going to be much of a team at all.
Practice makes a team better. Better teams win more games. And, unless the coach’s name is Gandhi or Mother Teresa, the point is to win games.
While winning might not be everything, it is a lot better than the alternative. Show me a good loser, and I will show you somebody who has gotten way too used to losing.
So a team practices. And it practices some more. It practices after school and it practices during the holiday season.
Don’t make me out to be a Scrooge. I am all for warm and fuzzy family moments. I still shop at Hallmark for cards and make sure our four kids – ages 34 to 20 - still get their annual Christmas ornaments. We hang the pickle on the tree, we travel en masse to 11 o’clock service on Christmas Eve and we head to grandma's house to celebrate with all of the cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, kids and grandkids.
We are so full of holiday cheer that our breath would register off the charts on a nutmeg breathalyzer.
But if I have to work over the holidays, I punch in and go to work. If my wife has to work, she goes to work. When the kids were playing sports, if they had practice, they went to practice.
Bah humbug? Nope, that is just the way it is.
We went to grandma and grandpa’s for the day, not Boca for the week. We went skiing at Mount Holly or Alpine Valley for the day, not Boyne or Vail for the week. We went to a movie for a couple of hours, not to New York City for a Broadway play or two. If we wanted to see a play, it was at the Fisher or the Fox.
So yes, ma'm, I can believe the basketball team practices over the holidays.
If that ruins a trip out of town for the family, then I do feel sorry for you.
But only if that trip is to see an ailing grandparent or an elderly aunt and uncle. If that is the case, most coaches would be happy to oblige the time away from practice.
But the beach in Boca? That is a good way to burn his teammates.


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