…the basketball last night was good. I cannot write that it was good because it was stylish or artistic. No Jordan or James, no West or even a little Dampier adorned the court. No, the good basketball last night was good because earnest and sincere, played with stolid fury by young men who are ready and willing but know in their hearts they are mostly unable.
Still, both games, the first and last, sailed along calm seas. In the first quarter of the first game my partner and I detected no fouls at all worth calling. Three fouls were called by half-time of the first game. Neither team approached the bonus at any time in the game.
The second started as well. I admit it featured my previously mentioned new darlings, the Panther Creek Varsity Boys Team. I cannot help my feelings. These are the nicest kids I have ever seen. Their families, their coaches, their teachers, the boys themselves, behave on the court in such a way that my knees stop hurting. They are miracle healers.
The advent of the Christ to the court came late in the second game. The score, so much as anyone noticed, was close throughout the contest, knotted just then. A strapping boy from Blackwell (the opposition) stole an errant pass and flashed…more trotted…well, tripped, then, to be accurate, toward the Panther Creek basket. He was running as I used to run, more of a controlled fall, feet numbed, legs splayed, heavy chest and shoulders pulling him inexorably down, down, down, all the while striving manfully to heave a ball of air skyward to the goal.
This is problematic at best but perilous in a short gym. A short gym is one constructed with economy in mind. At the end line of some short gyms in older all-purpose facilities, there might be a stage rising up, suitable to break the pelvis of the taller players or decapitate the shorter boys. At the other end of a short gym, away from the stage, there is the court end, the base line and a wall. The wall is, well, abruptly placed. You are on the court, then you are in the wall.
The wall seldom budges.
The Blackwell boy plunged headlong on his appointed journey. No soldier ever stormed an enemy battlement with greater zeal. He ran full tilt, he ran with commitment, he ran for the honor of his teamsmen and the glory of the game. He ran, preparing himself to sling home the leathered air.
He ran into the wall.
He tripped over the ball and ran into the wall.
The poor boy smashed into that structure and proved it soundly built, if ancient. He had no facility to raise his arms and so smashed the wall with his forehead, his jaw and then his left knee. For a moment, his lower limbs refused their office.
Stalwart warrior, wishing to remain and not to be rendered hors-de-combat, he rotated his great head like a Clydesdale shakes the snow from his mane and adjusted his then gaping maw to close it, first securing his lolling tongue. He was ready to go.
That is, until he tried to rise. At that moment he discovered his left knee had betrayed him. He could not rest any part of his considerable bulk on it for any reason.
He who had torn down the court an instant before was now, for the moment, a trembling cripple, unable to transport himself from step to step.
Then came the advent of the Christ. The broken boy was clad in team colors of emerald green and white, with a giant number on front and back and a small eagle embroidered in green on a background of white just above the breastbone, below the throat. He could not soar at that moment. In fact, he tottered dangerously, teetering to a fall.
A boy clad in white, a Panther Creek boy, lingered nearer to the fallen warrior than I could get. As his valiant opponent started to fall, the boy in white, the rival, the adversary, caught him up in strong arms, stopped his fall, righted him and threw the full load of the injured boy on his own strong shoulders. Together, they lurched along toward safety, neither noticing for the moment that one wore white and one wore green.
I have never seen this happen in all my years. The young man in white never hesitated to offer succor to his fallen foe. The lad in green accepted his adversary's arm without thinking.
Yes, I see everything through a Christian world view. Yes, these acts of kind courage probably happen in other cultures.
I thought Christ had come to the basketball court in the form of young American manhood. Straight and tall, strong and kind, asking for nothing in return for the injured lad had nothing to give him, the spirit of the Christ had come down to the short gym in Lohn, Texas, filled up the head and heart of a good, good boy and inspired an old preacher.
I ran down the court when play resumed humming the Doxology.
Praise God from Whom all Blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.