Sport Report

by Phil Johnson

Text: “Bodily exercise profiteth little.” Paul of Tarsus.

Motto : The real game is the game you are in.

Keeping the Game Alive

Many persons want to play games but sometimes it takes a lot to keep a game alive. If you have tried to get a game going or keep one going, you know what I mean. It is not hard to keep highly organized games, like a high school basketball game, going after much work and planning have been done to provide for them. But less-structured games are often a challenge to get going and to keep alive because they depend upon the will and resources of the moment.

For example, just off the alley in south Minneapolis there is a new hoop—a neighborly venture—and there are several very eager young hoopers. One, my nephew Donny (6), could not wait to get me into a game. He rushed out of the house ahead of me and, when it seemed to him that I was heading the other direction, he shouted, “This way Uncle Phil! Over here!” Peter (5) and Anna (8) were on the new court, read y to play.

“Peter and I against you and Anna,” proposed Donny.

“No. I don’t want to be on your side, Donny,” said Peter.

“Aw, come on, Peter,” pleaded Don.

“OK. But we gotta use my ball.”

“No. We’re using this ball.”

The game was in jeopardy. I proposed a scientific selection process. The full-size ball that I had just filled with air was leaking, so we eliminated it. “Let’s use the one that bounces higher,” I said, referring to Donny’s and Peter’s smaller basketballs. The boys submitted to the bounce test and the game ball was chosen.

“Peter gets two points if he hits the rim and three points for a basket,” announced my teammate but Peter’s sister, Anna.

“No!” cried Donny vociferously. “Those shots can’t count!” Even if Peter was his teammate, he didn’t want to play the game that way.

“Yes they do!” retorted Peter insistently.

“No! We aren’t playing that way,” cried Donny again. My sentiments were with Donny on this one.

“Yes we are, Donny,” said Anna. “Peter is little, and we got to make it fair for him, too. Besides, this is our court.”

“No, it’s not!” cried Donny. “It belongs to all of us.”

“I think she’s got you there, Don,” I said. “It’s like the basket at our house. It’s our basket, even if anyone can play there.”

Donny didn’t like that, and he didn’t agree but he decided to go along for the sake of the game. Later I learned that Donny was more right than I thought. It had been a joint project. But for the moment, that did not matter because we did, at last, have a game going.


“A long shot’s a three-pointer.”

“How long?” I asked.

Nobody knew, but convenient symmetrical concrete section lines provided a definite demarcation.

At last we were into the game. Donny and Peter were scoring Well. Anna and I, having trouble getting the ball in the hoop, fell behind in the early going. We had a distinct height advantage, but the two boys scampered around coming up with the loose balls close to the ground. Donny sank a few and Peter scored off the rim.

Then Tommy showed up.

“We get Tommy,” said Anna.

“No you don’t! We get Tommy.”

As each kid arrived, she or he was assigned to a team after not- so-delicate negotiation. After Tommy, came tiny Nicole who couldn’t do much with the ball when she got it, but who insisted upon being part of the action (we got her), then Ellie who was big and strong and could put in about half of her lay- up shots (they got her), and then Derek, whose presence on the court was random (we got him). Finally, the dads showed up and each team got one of them.

From time to time there were drop-outs and drop-ins, but we kept the game alive as it began to take on a life of its own. It was still going strong when I left. The new community hoop was a success, as the dads who put it up knew it would be. A lot of games will be played there.