by Ska Rhodes
Two newly in love college students let their teams battle it out on the court, with a bet.
|Basketball has been my entire life. My dad started coaching way before I was born and once when I was young I remember asking him why he chose basketball to form his life around.
"Does a bird choose to fly? Or it is just their natural reaction?" He peered at me quizzically.
I stared at him for a few moments, trying to think back to my second grade science class, "Birds are made to fly."
"I'm made to coach college basketball."
Tonight, we're playing my boyfriend's favorite team. We've been together since Christmastime, but his number one sport is football. Baylor was his first pick school, being it was his hometown, but they only offered a partial scholarship while South Carolina offered him a full ride.
Ray picked me up, donning full green and gold. I climbed into his truck, wearing my black and red uniform.
"You look ridiculous," I smirked.
"You look amazing but I still hate you," he gave me a kiss. He pumped his fist in the air, "GO BEARS!"
I rolled my eyes, "Don't make me maul you."
"So have you picked your terms for the bet?" He shifted into gear and headed toward the venue.
"I haven't really come up with anything worthwhile. It's mostly been ice cream dates or foot massages."
He chuckled, "I'm surprised you didn't say an endless supply of chocolate."
"Oooh, that's a good one. I'll add that to the list of possibilities. Have you come up with anything yet?"
He paused, glancing at me as we waited at a red light. "I might have an idea," he put his focus back on the road.
"Well, are you going to tell me?"
He shrugged, "I was thinking a vacation."
"Yeah, like, this summer? We could each pick a place and whoever wins tonight, we plan a vacation for that place."
I watched him for a moment, then leaned back in my seat with a smile. We hadn't really made distant future plans before. Maybe a week or two in advance, but not three or four months. This felt like a big step, but it put what felt like a small ball of energy in the pit of my stomach. Not scary, overwhelming energy, but happy, energetic, energy. It's hard to describe, but it was there, and it was good.
"Well? What do you think?" His voice snapped me out of my daze.
"I think it's a great idea. I'm thinking a cozy little cabin in the mountains."
"It's gonna be summer. I'm thinking Cabo."
"Cabo," I sneered. "What's romantic about Cabo?"
"Why does it have to be romantic the whole time? Can't it be like, an adventure? We could like, go snorkeling and stuff. Dolphins."
I giggled, "Wow, you seem so educated on Cabo, babe."
"I have no idea if there's dolphins in Cabo." We laughed together, pulling into a student parking spot. "Alright, you get one more kiss and then it's no more Mr. Nice Guy. Hashtag game face." He glared at me.
I giggled, leaning over to kiss him. "That's it. Don't expect me to be the same girlfriend you knew before you walked into those doors."
"Oh, I can't wait to see this."
Walking through the doors was exhilarating, the small ball of energy in the pit of my stomach started to grow. The moment my shoes hit the sleek wooden floors, it grew again. I searched the court for my dad. I spotted him in his SC gear a few yards from half court. I jogged over to him, just as he was gathering up the team for a quick talk. I slid my arm under his, tossing it over my shoulders and put mine around his waist.
"Hey baby girl, I'm pretty busy, can you come down at half time?"
"Absolutely," I kissed him on the cheek. "I just wanted to say 'go get 'em, Coach.'"
"Thanks, Hales. Where's that rival boyfriend of yours?" He peered over my shoulder, and clearly spotted him because he frowned.
"He's being a good sport."
"I'm not gonna say the words, but I'll let you know if this doesn't go the way I've been working my whole life for it to go, you better not marry that guy."
I laughed, squeezing him tighter, "Don't worry, Daddy, I would never let you down like that."
He squeezed me back and kissed my forehead, "Alright get up there, and no parties tonight, you have the most important game of your life tomorrow."
"You have the most important game of your life right now, Dad."
I bound up to the stands and found Ray, squeezing past a sea of black and red cloaked students and alums.
"Is he nervous?" Ray spoke into my ear.
"No," I stated confidently, speaking toward the crowd. "He was made for this."
Ray looked at me, not breaking his gaze, and I turned to him. "You know him so well."
I smirked, and shrugged, "He's my dad."
"I hope you get to know me that well some day."
My smirk broke into a full, toothy, grin. The ball of energy felt like it doubled in size. "I would really like that."
The moment the ball left the referee's hand, the energy exploded inside of me. Baylor won the tip off. Ray roared in my ear, "BEARS!"
I zoned in on my dad watching him closely. Within the first three minutes of the game, he had already started loosening his tie.
That was the last time Ray yelled a team praise. SC took the lead fairly quickly, and held it for the win, with a seventy-fifty lead on Baylor. The game was the biggest upset in the Sweet Sixteen, even before the tournament was completed. For the first time in forty-four years, SC men's basketball was in the NCAA tournament and crushing it. Not only a record-breaking win for South Carolina, but also a record-breaking loss for Baylor.
As the final buzzer sounded, I grabbed Ray's wrist, and stormed the court, heading straight for my dad. Once we reached him, Ray grabbed me by the waist and hoisted me in the air while I pumped both fists above my head, "You did it! You did it, Dad!"
I knew Ray's heart was broken, but the smile on his face told me he would get over it. He balanced me up on his shoulder and wrapped his other arm around my dad, "That was amazing, Coach."
"Looks like we got a bandwagon fan on our hands," my dad teased.
"You'll never see me in black and red for a b-gall game, but I'm pretty proud to say I get to attend this school and witness history."
"Dinner's on me, guys! Let me go cheer with the boys and I'll meet you outside."
I wiggled out of Ray's arm and landed in front of my dad, wrapping my arms around his neck, "I am so proud of you!"
"I can't wait to see you on the court tomorrow. I bet you'll win. Like father, like daughter," he laughed, hugging me. "Get outta here, it's getting hot with all these people on the court. I'll catch up with you in a little bit."
Ray and I headed outside to get some air and discuss dinner. "So I guess we're not going to Cabo," he joked.
"Maybe we could still go to Cabo," I teased. "But only if there's dolphins."