The beauty of shooting with two balls when you’ve got a great team of rebounders is that no matter how poorly you shoot, there’s a chance for redemption every couple of seconds. The beauty of this being a two-year project is that no matter how poorly you redeem yourself on any one particular day, there’s always another shot at redemption tomorrow. The beauty of my wife is … well … overwhelming (That, I just decided to throw in there.).
So last night, I choked. And I’m not saying that in an false-modesty, oh-he’s-just-being-coy, disingenuously self-deprecating and endearing kind of a way, but more in a “That’s The Fact, Jack” kind of a way. I’m saying it like in the way that I had just told USA Today reporter Rick Hampson that I’m right around a 90 percent foul shooter, and then I start shooting, and then I start noticing that each time I miss Rick is making a little notation in his notebook, and then I start thinking about those little notations, and then I start thinking about the video camera with which Rhyne Piggot of USA Today is recording all this, and then my arm starts going in a direction that I don’t really intend or even recognize, and then my wrist doesn’t flick quite so well, and then my eyelids start to twitch, and then the ball starts going astray, and then I start thinking more about those little notations in Rick’s notebook, and then I start thinking some more about the camera in Rhyne’s hand, and the ball continues to go astray, and …
And there’s another ball in my hand. And another. And another. And another.
Some nights, we fly because I don’t miss very much. Other nights, we fly because no matter how far the balls are spraying off the rim and all over the gym, the retrieval team just keeps getting them back into my hands in a hurry. Ball after ball after ball after ball.
That’s how it went down last night. With our new buddies from USA Today at the Epsom Central School gym, Paige and Mike Oristano were gracious enough make the hour trek from New London, and Lee Cohen (who had a regular work day this morning, by the way) drove the hour and a half up from Bostonish. Noah was there, too, filling in the gaps and bringing his 10-year-old, Granite State Raiders brand of energy to the table.
This was as good a rebounding group as we’ve had yet. Bad as I was, the first 500 made foul shots were in the books in almost exactly 25 minutes, which is the 5-minutes-per-hundred that we aim for, and the next 500 were even a little better than that. Then, from 1,000-1,500, I actually started to pull my weight, and we were through that segment in about 23 minutes, and we finally finished up with the last 500 in right around 24 minutes. Great rebounding, everyone!
So Rick, being a 30-year veteran of the newspaper business, asked the obvious question when we were through. Something like, “It seemed like you weren’t happy with the way you shot. Any idea why you didn’t shoot well.”
To which I started an answer that probably sounded something like “Hummana-hummana-hummana,” before Noah stepped in and told the God’s honest truth.
“You mean because you choked?”
It was great having Rick and Rhyne aboard. Having been a part of a major metropolitan newspaper myself (That’s what the Concord Monitor is, right?), I’m always fascinated by the way these guys make things happen quickly. Rick initially called from New York on Tuesday, saying that USA Today is doing a story on what regular Americans are doing to honor the troops, and that he’d like to come up and hear about Hoops For Heroes. On Wednesday, he called to see if Thursday night would work. (Of course it would.) So that’s when he and Rhyne showed up, for a little pizza and conversation, and then a visit to the gym.
You’ve already heard how that went. Paige and Mike and Lee, who have been among the very best supporters of and advocates for HFH, were not only great on the court but also the ideal people to represent the cause (or so I think … we’ll see whether or not Mike really told Rhyne, on camera, that the two of us met only because my son threw a rock through his window and was about to go to prison — which is what he told Noah he said.) … Seriously, big gratitude for the help to the Oristanos and Mr. Cohen, who really didn’t have to say yes on incredibly short notice, but did.
Rick and Rhyne were back at the homestead at 4:45 a.m. today to go through the morning routine with me. Unfortunately, this particular morning routine included another fairly significant choke session — and this time no one to bail me out other than the big old SKLZ Rapid Fire net we call “Annette.” I’ll just be content with the fact that we snuck in 1,500 made shots within two hours (barely), and we’ll move on.
Rick was on the road before we were through, but Rhyne stayed around for an on-camera interview and photos … and photos … and photos. The USA Today feature is expected to run, according to Rick, roughly a day or two before Oct. 7, which is the anniversary of the day our heroic American service men and women went into Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.
Thousands and thousands like them have been going ever since. Let’s keep them in our thoughts, today and all days.