As I sit here on my sofa, preparing to watch Kansas battle Virginia Commonwealth for a spot in the Final Four, I’m remembering one of the most dramatic basketball games in history. It occurred back in 2001, and it was a turning point in my life.

© 2001 Mark W. Mayfield

Every man eventually experiences a “Moment of Unbearable Realization,” a moment when the glaring spotlight of reality instantly erases the fleeting shadows of his hopes, dreams and fantasies, a moment when “The Way Things Should Be” suddenly becomes “The Way Things Really Are.”

During my lifetime, I’ve experienced four such incidents. The first occurred shortly after my 14th birthday, when I realized that Marcia from The Brady Bunch would never be my girlfriend. The second happened a few years later, when I realized that supermodel Cheryl Tiegs would never be my girlfriend. And the third unexpectedly arrived yesterday in my driveway, when I realized that my son was about to win our weekly game of one-on-one basketball.

Until yesterday, I’ve dominated these games with an ingenious offensive play that negates my opponent’s superior quickness and agility: While dribbling the ball with my right hand, I back up to the basket, skillfully using my 90-pound weight advantage to gently “nudge” my son out of the way, much like a semi-truck would gently “nudge” a small sports car out of a parking space. Then, while he screams, “THAT’S A FOUL, DAD!,” I use my 10-inch height advantage to shoot the ball over his outstretched hands and into the basket.

But yesterday’s game was different from the start. When I looked into my son’s eyes during the pre-game stare-down, I saw the intense, merciless gaze of a strong, young lion who was determined to vanquish the battle-scarred patriarch of the pride. I’ve never been a cowardly lion, but I must admit that his demeanor made me nervous.

As the game began, I tried to disarm my son with a little humor. “Did I ever tell you the joke about the ventriloquist and the farmer?” I asked.

“Don’t you dare repeat that story!” said my wife, who appeared from nowhere to root for the younger lion.

During the next several minutes, my son scored eighteen unanswered points. He scored with jump shots. He scored with lay-ups. He scored with finger rolls. He fooled me with beautiful head fakes, stutter steps, crossovers and around-the-back dribbles. He wore me down me with incredible speed and stamina that an old lion could never match. He even made a hook shot over my outstretched hands. Worst of all, he refused to be “nudged” away from the basket.

Hoping to slow his attack, I tried a diversion tactic.

“LOOK! “It’s Cheryl Tiegs in a bikini! I exclaimed.

“Who’s Cheryl Tiegs?” said my undistracted son. That’s when I experienced my fourth Moment of Unbearable Realization, as I realized that not even Cheryl Tiegs in a bikini could save me.

As my son prepared to administer the final blow, I desperately appealed to his sense of decency.

“Does beating a tired old man make you feel like a tough guy?” I asked breathlessly. Well, let me tell you something, you cocky little lion, (pant, pant) someday your good ol’ dad won’t be around to play basketball with you. And when that day arrives, you’ll miss the man who taught you how to ride a bike, the man who taught you how to put a nightcrawler on a fishing hook, the man who taught you how to burp the alphabet and make that funny noise with your armpits. And then you’ll remember how you mistreated me today, and you’ll let out a long, loud, anguished cry that will echo through the countryside. Then will this victory still taste sweet, son?”

“Let’s just finish the game,” he said with steely determination.

“Okay, we’ll finish the game,” I replied, “but remember, son, the Bible says that children should never beat their earthly fathers in basketball. Don’t forget what happened to Pharaoh’s son when he beat his dad in one-on-one.”

“What happened to Pharaoh’s son?” asked my son with mock interest.

“Well, I’m not really sure,” I replied, “but I think it involved festering sores and a plague of locusts.”

He ignored my warning and nailed a perfect jump shot that sealed his victory.

“Good game, dad,” roared the triumphant young lion.

“Meow,” replied the vanquished patriarch.

After writing this column, Mark Mayfield officially retired from weekly games of one-on-one.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by SandySays1 on March 27, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    My human says it happens to all humans – maybe just in different sports. There’s the fastball you can no longer hit, the move your halfback son makes that ties your undies around your ankles, or the shot to kill a deer you couldn’t focus on. The king is dead long live the king!


  2. Sandy, you’re a lucky dog to have such a wise human.


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