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Unstoppable: The Story of George Mikan: The First NBA Superstar
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Diary of a Mad Househusband: Musings on Life as a Stay-at-Home Dad
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Joe Oberle
5770 Washington Street NE
Fridley, MN  55432
Phone: (763) 572-8432

4.8 Seconds

The world of sports is basically nuts. There’s rabid intensity, fierce rivalry, nasty trash-talking, morose sorrow in losing and exultant joy in victory – and that’s just up in the stands where spectators are watching. Down on the field of play there is all that and more. A broad spectrum of human emotions can played out in any sporting contest on any given night. Make it youth sports, with wild-eyed parents who project the action in front of them into dreams of future interviews on ESPN about how they developed their child into a star and just about anything can happen.

And often does.

Take for example the following story about my son’s 8th grade basketball team. If I wasn’t telling you now that it really happened, you might think that I was a competent fiction writer. When I add to the fact that his team didn’t win a game the previous season, you’d laugh and say “Try to sell it to Hollywood.” But it happened. I was there:

4.8 Seconds

My son, Seth, and his 8th grade hoops team is playing a home game that is truly hard fought. The refs mistakenly decide to swallow their whistles and a virtual war ensues. There is 10 seconds remaining in the game when they finally do call a shooting foul. The center for the other team misses his first free throw and makes the second to tie the game at 35. Seth's team inbounds the ball and takes it up court, but it is knocked out of bounds near mid court--and the sleepy clock operator lets about two extra seconds drain off the clock before he stops it with 4.8 seconds left.

The center on Seth's team inbounds the pass to a forward behind the time line, who throws it to the other forward in the paint at about the free-throw line. He is not the player the team wants taking the shot, but he has no choice and turns in heavy traffic and fires the ball toward the basket. The ball draws side iron and the backboard and then bounds down to the perfectly-positioned and uncovered Seth, who grabs it and cleanly lays it back up for the win. The crowd goes wild.

In the split second as I watch him put back the rebound and saw that indeed it was going to go in, I also thought, "Why hadn't the buzzer gone off yet?" I looked up at the clock and saw there was 4.8 seconds still frozen on the scoreboard. The operator had not turned the clock on. The opposing coach vaulted off the bench screaming and it was then that I looked down in my hand and remembered that I was running the clock.

The refs should have given them another chance in regulation, but the coach screamed for OT, and I was so distraught at taking this shining moment away from son, I could only repeat "I didn't start the clock." The game went to an extra session, where Seth's team, without their point guard, who had fouled out, lost.

I was sick over this – beside myself in pain for these guys who the previous season hadn't won a game. Thankfully, Seth is taking it better than I am. Later that evening, when I was still lamenting the situation, he said "We shouldn't be making such a big deal out of it, should we? It's only a game."

How about another story? We'll call this one

Saves at Home

My friend Tom told me the story of 8-year-old son playing keeper for a pretty good soccer team. They were so good that the ball never made it past the mid-point of the pitch, so Tom's son Danny was never really challenged.

It's late into the match and with all the action concentrated on the offensive end, Tom, seating in the stands, looks towards the other goal to see how his kid is doing. Much to his surprise, Danny is no longer in the net. Tom finally finds him on the next field over--an empty baseball field--practicing sliding into home.

I guess soccer will never really completely replace baseball.

Coaches, parents and players can sometimes have a different perspective on sports, no matter how much we try to impart the wisdom of our decades of obsessing over them. In a pressure situation, it's always good to consider the sport from the player's perspective. You might be seeing eye-to-eye:

Karrie's Crying

A U-12 girls hockey game in a Minneapolis suburb pits two crosstown rivals in a big regular season match. About midway through the second period, not long after the home team goes down 4-0, several of the home team players skate over to the coach on the bench during a stoppage of play and report: “Coach, Karrie is crying.”

Sure enough, as the coach looks down the ice, he sees his goalie, Karrie, slightly slumped over with her hands on her knees and shoulders heaving in a way that signifies that there are tears under that mask.

The coach quickly calls a timeout and motions to Karrie to skate over to the bench. She skates up red faced with tears streaming down her cheeks, obviously in distress. The coach tries to reassure her that score of the game isn’t her fault:

“It’s okay, Karrie, this team is better than us," he says. "Those goals aren't your fault. We’ll just keep wor . . .”

Suddenly, Karrie interrupts and between sobs says, “It’s not the goals. I’m hungry!”

It's not known if the coach then considering crying himself . . . .