So that you don’t get your hopes up, let it be known that my daughter did not get the puppy.
Now, let’s begin…
Bailey is a sophomore at St. Edwards University, where she’s a shooting guard on the basketball team. She was recruited for various reasons: ball handling, a high basketball IQ, game swagger, and she can drain 3s from downtown.
It’s a sweet sight watching your daughter’s 3-point shot sail through the air with such accuracy that you can predict the oncoming swish solely based on its trajectory. But even sweeter is when she plays for Division II St. Edwards and her opponent is Division I Texas State University, and that 3-point shot rains down with victorious redemption. After all, she didn’t return to Texas State’s home court just to put on another 0-11 shooting performance like she did the year before. Besides, this was her hometown, and she was determined to not let people walk away with another memory like that one. After she made the game’s opening basket, she began positioning herself beyond the arc and sank three 3s. One shot in particular was a quick release that she nailed after a stare-down into the eyes of her defender. The ball appeared to cradle itself in the net—a perfect swish that silenced the home crowd.
After St. Edwards’ opening 10-0 lead, the closest Texas State would come was nine points. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hilltoppers led the Bobcats by 20. In the end, it was St. Edwards upsetting Texas State for the first time in school history, 65-51.
The stars were lined up for Bailey. So many parts of the game were markers of success, and would solidify themselves as everlasting memories for her. As a parent, and being someone who had played basketball for a large part of my life, I lived vicariously through the game. I felt just as much a part of the victory as she did. Of course, her team could have lost to Texas State, and I would still be the proud father as I am at all of her games. Pride isn’t easily removed after you’ve coached your daughter since she was a 5-year-old.
I envisioned her riding on the bus back to Austin—celebrating the defeat of a Division I opponent. Bodies bouncing in their seats to the catchy rhythms of hip-hop. These kind of victories don’t come often. What else could possibly be on her mind? I texted her to say congratulations.
Me: What a game! You played great!
Me: Your three ball was on. That must have felt so good, especially on Texas State’s home court.
Bailey: It was pretty awesome.
She sent another text directly after that one. It was accompanied with the photo of a puppy.
Bailey: Will you get him for me for Christmas?
Me: The puppy’s for sale?
Bailey: Yeah! My friend’s mom is selling him. Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!!?
Was I missing something here? Was there a gap in time that I had skipped over? Was Einstein’s theory of general relativity at work? Could this be the first ever “telephonic wormhole” whereby our conversation entered a shortcut in a space-time continuum, and all permanent basketball dialogue had been sucked into oblivion? Thirty minutes ago she had quite possibly experienced the biggest victory of her collegiate career, but now she was asking about a puppy? I wanted to talk about the two steals she made, the offensive charge she took, and her invaluable shooting contributions. It was time for a phone call. She answered with instant enthusiasm.
“Can we get the puppy? Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!? Pleeease, Dad, can we?”
“Bailey, you’re in college.”
“Isn’t he cuuuuuute!!?”
I had to speak quickly or I was neeeeeever going to get a word in.
“You’re a college student. You’d see the puppy only on the weekends. We’d be the ones raising it.”
“The puppy’s a he, not an it,” she said assertively.
“Okay, a he. You wouldn’t see him much.”
“But he’s adooorrrable!!”
“Yes, he is. I can’t deny that. But, Bay, if you’re going to get a dog, then that dog needs to bond with you. Seeing him only on the weekends isn’t going to cut it. Wait till after college before you get one.”
It was the first quiet of our conversation. I imagined our local newspaper’s game coverage headline: ST. EDWARDS UPSETS STATE. BUT PUPPY HAS NO CHANCE. FATHER KILLS MOMENT. “There he is!!!!!!!” the townsfolk would angrily yell, brandishing battle axes and torches to guide them into the night. “The puppy hater!!! Do not let him flee!!! Off with his head!!! He is no father!!! He is but evil’s rot!!!”
“Bay, am I making any sense?”
The excitement had drained from her voice. She had conceded to my suggestion. “Okay,” she said. “I guess I see your point.”
Before we hung up, a curiosity loomed in my mind. “I got a question. This game that you just played, this incredible win—are you excited about it?”
“Of course I am, why?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Guess I’m just a little surprised about the puppy.”
“What about the puppy?”
“Well, that you’re mentioning him like the game didn’t even happen.”
“Dad, it was a great game, but it’s over. I mean, yeah it was a huge win, but…isn’t he soooo adooorrrable!!?”
Our conversation ended soon after. I couldn’t help but smile as I now understood the simplicity of her mindset. The game was over. She had given it her full attention. There was no puppy out there on the court, nor part of any discussion on the bench or in the locker room. But on the bus ride home, as they shared the highlights of the game, the normalcy of their lives returned. Snapchat, Twitter, music, homework, life’s dramas, what to eat, and a puppy all surfaced amongst their discussions.
Here I was though, talking to my daughter whom I had coached in basketball leagues and tournaments for so many years. My mind was cemented in a vicarious state. I wanted to talk at length about nothing more than the memorable details of the upset over Texas State. This kind of victory doesn’t come often.
And neither did those moments with your daughter, when—little did she know—she inadvertently taught you that there’s really only one thing sweeter than victory…
Living in the moment.
Copyright Ros Hill 2017