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Rated: E · Short Story · Sports · #1744630
A basketball player dealing with a conflict between a game he loves and his beliefs.
The basketball swung to the other side of the court. Koop fought through a pick. Had to get to the post to cover Big Jay. Don’t let him get comfortable, lean against him, let him feel those bony shoulders and hips. Front him; don’t let the wing have a clear pass in to him. It was hard work. Big Jay was a half-inch taller than Koop and out weighed him by twenty or thirty pounds. Koop was the quicker of the two but it was all he could do to keep from being shouldered out of the way by the bigger man. Big Jay got the ball anyway but couldn’t make a clean move for the basket. Koop stayed in his way. Big Jay finally slammed the ball down on the floor in frustration so hard it almost hit the gymnasium ceiling on the way back up. Coach blew his whistle, jumped in, and admonished his players to keep their cool. When the tension dissipated enough, they ran through the half-court set again. It was just a frustrating moment in a frustrating season.

Coach really didn’t have the respect of his team. That was probably the biggest problem with them. The starting point guard actually came to practice stoned once and the only person who didn’t know it was the coach. The older players automatically got the starting positions and this chaffed with both Koop and Lumpy. They were stereotyped as centres even though both of them could out play the Farmer who started in the power forward position. The sense of team camaraderie that Koop had lived for in previous seasons just wasn’t there. He worried that the pine grain pattern in the wood at the end of bench where he usually sat during games was becoming a permanent part of his anatomy. His only real moment all season that he cherished was hanging forty-four points on Big Jay in a team scrimmage once. Nobody in the league did anything resembling that in a real game. Nobody else was keeping score though. The team was loaded with talent but finished the season with only four wins for their trouble.

Koop’s frustration ran deeper than the team’s woes. He wondered why he bothered sometimes. He loved basketball but even the senior boys coach had told him he would likely never be a starter anywhere. He was a good ball player but some seasons he missed nearly half the games. You see Koop was a Sabbatarian Christian and didn’t play basketball from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Every season, whatever coach he had, would get together with him near the beginning to discuss his beliefs. He dreaded it even though he knew what choice he would make. It frustrated him to read articles in Sabbatarian youth magazines talking about some other kid who played well and the league they were in made changes to the schedule just so that he wouldn’t miss any games. He knew that would never happen for him. He sometimes wondered if God really cared anyway. This was the season he got that little miracle and though it took a long time to understand it was undeniable.

The schedule passed down to the team that season handed down by the league only included two regular season Friday evening games. It was almost beyond comprehension. Every other year of his pre-collegiate basketball career featured a schedule with at least half the games falling on the Sabbath. When it finally came time for the team to play the first of those two games a big snowstorm blew in and the game had to be rescheduled. It was rescheduled for a weekday. That was the first game of only two rescheduled during those entire six seasons of playing ball because of the weather. Guess when the second one came up. Yes, Koop went through the entire season without missing a single game. Nobody noticed except for Koop himself.

This whole scenario was encouraging yet puzzling. He had no doubt that God had somehow in some way reached down and set this up just for him. But why did God choose to do this the one year that he was a nobody on the team? The only season where no one would even notice. It took him a long time but he finally came to the conclusion that no one else was supposed to notice. God wasn’t using this to announce to the world that Koop’s religious beliefs were right and everyone else is wrong. God was just letting a sincere believer know that he wasn’t in it alone.

The following season Koop was shifted to forward and became a starter for the entire season. He acquitted himself well. When it came time to play with the senior team, in spite of his coach’s predictions, he did actually start a few games. The rest of the time he came off the bench as the team’s sixth man. Injury eventually slowed him down. Never did get a shot to play with the Canadian Olympic team, which was a dream he had, but he has no regrets.

Koop still celebrates the Sabbath each week with his family. He still holds fast to most of the beliefs he grew up with. He still loves basketball, but he’s never forgotten that God made it snow a couple times just to let him know he mattered.

© Copyright 2011 Pico ヨハネス (picodoll at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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