Nothing smells quite like a basketball. The rubber-leather-sweaty-grime of it. The wood-floor earthiness. Some old-gym, used-sock mustiness thrown in. Just looking at one makes it all come back to me.
What "it" is exactly, is up for grabs. My basketball career, if there ever was to have been one, lost all its air early on when it became clear that my DNA strands were studded with genes programmed for short & stocky, not lean & lithe. Then there was the matter of my easily distracted mind, which had me making mental artwork of the scoreboard's flashing lights instead of a launched ball's glorious parabolas.
As a point of fact, the one meaningful encounter I ever had with a basketball was in eighth grade phys ed, when a hoopster lobbed a loose one that headed straight for me while I was playing on an adjacent volleyball court. A bone in my hand was fractured when I brought it up to protect my gut. Ooompf.
Yes, okay—Dorksville—but who says you can't teach a never-to-be cager a few new tricks? Forty years later, I've developed an affection for the game. I know I'll never really comprehend the blocking rules, and my eyes aren't quick enough to see some plays through, but I know--I know—when a ball soars in grand arc from a player's hands the likelihood that it will find the net. And I can always tell you which team's got the possession arrow, or if that toe was on the three-point line. And hey, look at that woman a half-dozen rows up behind the bench. Is that a real duck she's holding in her lap?
I can't tell you how I know so intimately what a basketball smells like. My family had approximately zero interest in sports. My childhood home was somewhat isolated, at a remove from a conventional neighborhood that might have seen the occasional pick-up game. And that close encounter way back in 8th grade lasted only a half a second, even if its arthritic aftermath has nagged for a lifetime.
Is it too much of a stretch to believe that in a previous incarnation I was 6-foot-3, with legs as pent-up as pogo sticks and shoulders that understood the arc in advance of the throw? That if ever came the time when I held my face in my hands, it would take just one deep breath to bring all the glory right back into me?
CAN YOU DO THIS???
Nancy Carol Moody
I'm a poet and a letter-writer. Yup, that kind. The kind who uses pens and paper and actual stamps. The kind who will leave the house with nothing on the agenda but to get to the mailbox before the scheduled pick-up time. The kind who understands that technology is a wondrous thing, but nothing quite beats finding a real letter with a real stamp on it amid the credit card solicitations, pizza coupons and seminar catalogs.