Either Matt and I are pushy parents raising a pushy child, or John has had something remarkable happen to him over the past few years. He’s somehow made friends with the Middlebury College basketball team.
When John was two, Matt introduced him to one of the basketball players, now known permanently in our house as Basketball Ben. We went to lots of games and Ben and his family were very welcoming to this little person chasing them around.
Since then, he’s gone from a friend of Basketball Ben to a die-hard Midd basketball fan. He now knows the names, numbers and hometowns of everyone on the team. He remembers the scores of the games even when he can’t go. He willingly (and quietly) rode in the car for about six hours to get to Rochester for away games during the playoffs.
I would not have expected 20-year-old basketball players to have time for a four-year-old on the sidelines, but they actually seem to appreciate his dedication and let him be a part of things in his own small way. They give him high fives on their way onto the court and talk to him after games. He got to cut down a piece of the net after a championship win. This weekend, the kind and generous Wholeys invited us to a graduation party for Ryan Wholey (#33, Pelham, N.H.) and John got to play ball with a bunch of the players and get autographs. He was in heaven.
This group of young men has such generosity and patience. I don’t know if they realize how much that means to us.
It’s not that it’s cute watching John chat with guys who are twice his height, although that certainly is cute. It’s that he’s learning about kindness and confidence and sportsmanship. He knows the rules and follows them, even when it means he might lose a game. If he does lose, he doesn’t get upset, and that’s because he’s seen them lose with grace. When he wins a game (whether basketball or Chutes & Ladders), he shakes my hand right away, and they get a lot of the credit as well. From what I can tell, they’re a true team — working hard and finding joy in the work and in playing together — and I’m delighted for John to see up close how a team behaves.
I have a feeling these are lessons that will stick with our family long after John’s beloved players have graduated and grown up. Maybe someday he’ll repay the kindness by welcoming some other little kid to the corner of the court.