Over 35 years ago, my husband explained the difference between a full-court press and a zone defense.
I’m still not sure what exactly they are, but I know what it means when he mutters “they need to stay out of the paint” during a basketball game.
I learned to appreciate basketball when I was in high school.
I was a member of the pep squad, and cheering in a warm gymnasium beat sitting in the football stadium in the freezing rain.
Few of us understood the basketball rules, but we could see the players’ faces and the gym always seemed to reverberate with feet stomping their encouragement on the wooden bleachers.
I grew to appreciate the athletes, both male and female, as their sweat and strained muscles reflected their love of the game.
That appreciation should’ve come earlier as the guys in my family are die-hard fans.
We grew up in Olean, N.Y., and my dad loved watching St. Bonaventure play basketball.
When we moved to Louisiana, Dad was a frequent fan in the stands where he cheered for LSU hoopster Pete Maravich as “Pistol Pete” made his way into the history books.
That love was put into action as our brothers had a perpetual basketball game going in our parents’ driveway.
At family barbecues and holidays, the brothers and brothers-in-law would invariably lace up their sneakers and the game picked up right where it left off.
The games were friendly but competitive. I don’t remember if anybody every won or lost, but the score wasn’t the point.
Friendly competition, non-stop heckling and showing off were the primary goals.
Our nieces and nephews would play when their uncles and dads let them.
One afternoon, we girls decided to play. The game started off friendly, but our natural competitiveness kicked in and there was elbowing, shoving and pushing.
I think I might’ve hurt my sister.
With three sons who all liked sports, we had a basketball goal in our driveway. With almost-daily games, when our thoughtful neighbors, Dwight and Neta, put in a new fence, they put the handle on their gate on the outside so the boys could get their ball out of their back yard.
Recently, when my alma mater, the University of Houston, made it to the NCAA finals along with Baylor, another Texas school, we settled in to watch the game. Baylor took the lead and never looked back.
Since we were already settled in for the evening, we watched the Gonzaga and UCLA game even though we didn’t have a favorite.
Without a dog in the fight, I came to admire both teams, and it was obvious they were well matched and both wanted to win.
When Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs threw the ball from half court with less than a second on the clock, sunk the basket and won the game, we both jumped off the couch yelling in amazement.
We were eager to see these two teams take each other on for the championship title.
A sluggish, disjointed Gonzaga team took the court, but the Baylor Bears came on the court strong, bold, united and ready to win.
They easily took the 2021 NCAA Champs title.
Sometimes games, like life, are decided in a split second.
Sometimes, the winning outcome is evident from the start.
Other times, the underdog will fight with everything they have and take the win.
What matters is getting out there, playing with skill and abandon and accepting defeat or victory with grace and a handshake.
Not bad rules for life either.
Denise’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.