Pizza Bagels, Video Games, and Batteries

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I needed to drop one of my children at their friend’s house last week. I know the father, so I stayed for a bit and talked over a beer. We were in the living room, where one of his kids was playing video games.

Video Games

I’ve met a lot of kids over the course of parenthood, foster parenting, coaching, school pickup and drop-off, and a variety of other circumstances and duties. I think teens are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school was no exception. Loyal daddies and mommies are familiar with our friend Wilt. Wilt was a child of another friend who seemed to know everything about life, especially basketball. Check out the link I so generously provided. If you have teenagers, you’ll understand what I’m telling you.

I think teenagers are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school is no exception.

My child and I arrive at the house and the younger children quickly disappear upstairs. I remain downstairs, where “15” is dealing with one of the many challenges you face when trying to assemble a team on a video game. Dad is also in the living room finishing up work before getting ready to go out for the evening. It’s not an easy time for “15”. He’s playing a soccer game on his console, and he’s trying to assemble a national team. Apparently American soccer players are few and far between, and the good ones are even harder to find. I would like to help him, but I know nothing about who plays soccer, let alone where they hail from.

My friend and I watch “15” scroll through lists of players and their attributes. I offer whatever advice I can, but nothing works. The game works in a certain way, and you can’t just create a player and place him on your team. I literally haven’t played a soccer video game since last century, so I’m pretty much useless.

The Smoke Alarm

It gets harder for “15”. Not only does the field of available players lack what he needs, but the battery in the living room’s smoke alarm died, and there is an annoying “chirp” signaling the need for a new one. Each shrill call for a new battery is grating on the virtual general manager, who is having enough headaches with his lacking roster. He’s finally had enough, and he marches to the smoke detector, pulls it from the wall, and then the real struggle begins.

“15” has the smoke detector in his hands. The battery needs to be replaced, but first the old battery needs to be extracted. The Chinese water torture is getting to be too much for the lad, who can get the compartment open, but can’t get the battery out. Dad is enjoying this and so am I, to be honest with you. Finally, I show mercy to the poor child and take the battery out for them. After said extraction, I hold up the 9-volt nemesis and sing, “Ta-daa!” Now it’s time for a new battery, but there is no 9-volt battery in the house. So, the smoke detector sits on the end table sans battery for the time being.

A New Battery

I return home to take care of some chores and duties while my child is away at her friends. My friend has plans that evening, so I am sure to be there promptly to take my child home. I arrive at the house with a gift for “15”. A brand new 9-volt battery. To this day, I am mad at myself for not putting a bow on it.

Loaded and ready

I proudly present the lad with the gift and the life lesson. He installs the battery and places the smoke detector back in its proper place. Dad and I are proud of the child for doing his part to keep the house and his family safe and secure. Now, it’s back to video games where he has moved on from soccer to basketball. Dad and I are watching him scroll through teams and players. “15” makes some comments about Larry Bird, causing Dad to educate his child about Bird and Bill Russell. Meanwhile, we continue to watch him play.

“Hey, Auerbach,” I say.

“What?”

“I called you ‘Auerbach’.” Dad laughs. The child has no idea what I’m talking about, nor does he understand the reference to his basketball personnel moves.

Pizza Bagels

It’s time for a break in the action. “15” needs food. His dad follows him to the kitchen for a beer. “15” wants to make a pizza bagel. Dad and I watch the child struggle to slice a pre-sliced bagel. We remind the child it’s already pre-sliced, but this doesn’t matter to him because it’s not, “pre-sliced enough”. He gets the bagel sliced and prepares with sauce and toasts it. When it’s done, he has enough grated parmesan cheese for a dozen pizza bagels.

“Hey, Fieri,” I say after a sip of my beer, “Do you want some bagel to go with that cheese?”

One of the beers I received.

He tells me he has a solution and carefully shakes some cheese from one slice of the bagel onto the other slice. He then proceeds to eat the bagel while standing up, back turned to the counter. Crumbs fall to the floor. I tell him I’m willing to bet Dad has invested in some plates for the house. Dad tells me he needs to constantly remind him to use a plate when eating. I had no idea it was so chronic.

Driving home with my child, I ask how things went for them. I get home and enjoy one of the beers my friend sent home with me. My daughter and I watch some important, informative video on Harry Potter. While sipping my beer, I wonder if parents of teenagers were really meant to survive.

My new book, “A Collection of Short Stories” is now available on Apple Books.

Fundamentals of Basketball (Shooting Baskets)

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The Boy has taken a liking to basketball. This is only natural as one of the Gaggle plays, watches, breathes, and lives basketball. The Boy tends to want to do things older children do, especially the older ones living with him.

I jump in a game sometimes. Sometimes, I will just wait under the hoop and get the rebound and pass it to someone. God forbid someone gets a rebound nowadays. The Gaggle will try a shot and sometimes I will call out “Miss!”. The ball hits the rim and falls to the ground. No basket. The Gaggle looks at me because my powers caused him to miss the shot. I never knew I had this power and now I think I have the perfect reason to get free tickets to Celtics games.

Basketball really isn’t my thing. Brave Daddies, Brave Mommies, and other loyal readers know this already. When I started writing for newspapers, I addressed the shortage of hockey writers in the department. It was cold in the ice rinks, but people wanted to know what was going on with the renegades of the rink. I gave up heated gymnasiums and climate-controlled fieldhouses in order to deliver the scores and the stories behind those scores in unheated hockey rinks. You’re welcome.

I’ve gotten into basketball ever since the Gaggle had taken a liking to it. I was at basketball game cheering for him and the rest of the team. I offered whatever advice I could after the game. I asked him about the game on the way home. We would talk a little and wait for the next game or practice.

A basketball on the ground because nobody wanted to get the rebound.

Back home, The Boy will join in on our games/shootarounds. The boy is still growing and the Boston Celtics aren’t scouting him yet. He likes to shoot from downtown. He can barely make the rim, but he insists he can do it. I offer some advice to him while he’s dribbling. Does he take any? Of course not. It reminds me of my basketball games with the boy named “Wilt”. “Wilt” would be double-or-triple-teamed. It didn’t matter. He was going to take it to the hole one way or another. I’d be wide open. Heck, he could even pass it to me, get some defenders off him, and he’d be open and under the hoop. Ready to lay one in. But, no. He knows what he’s doing. He can do it. Just like the children at my house. They won’t take advice. They won’t make a lot of baskets right now, but if you have a clause in your contract for rebounds, they just might make you wealthy.

I try to talk to The Boy about this. If he would move a little closer to the hoop, he could work on his dribbling, his footwork, his layups. I thought it would be a good chance for him to work on everything. As he gets older, his arms get stronger. He can move further away from the hoop as time goes on and work on those three-pointers he’s so obsessed with. But, no. He knows what he’s doing. I don’t know what I’m talking about, as usual. My advice is useless and I know nothing.

Another shot goes off the rim and down the street. More boys chase after it. Maybe next time, The Boy will move a little closer to the hoop. Then again, maybe not.

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Street Hoops with Children

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There is a friend I would visit from time to time. I am sorry to say we don’t see each other as much as we used to. There was a time we would be at each other’s house often and sometimes I would watch his kids. Sometimes I would visit and my friend and I would play pick-up basket ball with one of the children. We’ll call this person “Wilt”. There would be another person there. Four of us. We would play two-on-two.

“Wilt” had a unique style of playing basketball. It was a fairly simple style, really. Wilt would get the ball from me. He would dribble. He would run here. Run there. He would go to the other side of the street. I would be under the hoop. Wide open. “Wilt!” I would yell. “Wilt! I’m open!” Wilt would continue to run around the block. He would run inside the house, still dribbling. Come outside with his bus pass, leave his street and take the bus to his school. He would run back to his house. His defender has backed away from him and now I am being double-teamed. Does Wilt shoot? Of course not! There are three guys under the hoop. Two of them are on me. One of my defenders leaves me and goes back to Wilt, who is heading to the neighboring town in hopes of getting a better shot.

I’m starting to understand why there’s a shot-clock.

I tell Wilt it’s going to be dark soon. I tell him Christmas is coming. Maybe Santa can get him an assist for Christmas. He shoots. He misses. The other team gets the ball. The ball goes out of bounds. Our ball. I’m taking it out.

I’m at the top of the key. I yell to Wilt and tell him to go to the hoop. “Wilt!” I yell. “Hoop!” Wilt just stands there off to the side of the hoop. He’s not moving. He just stands there and stares at me.

“Hoop!” I yell again but to no avail. Wilt Chamberlain is just standing there. He doesn’t have the ball. Why should he move anywhere on the court?

“Hoop!” I yell again. He doesn’t move. I heave up a shot. I’m hoping the ball in the air will get Wilt to move. He just stands there with his defender. My defender jumps up and tries to block the ball. He can’t. The ball gets by him. The ball sails in a majestic arc and barely misses the rim. It bounces out of bounds. Their ball.

“Augh!” Wilt yells. He grabs his hair. He stomps his feet. He is incensed. His eyeballs are about to pop out of his face. He is furious.

“What are you doing?!” Wilt demands.

“Naismith,” I say to him. “How many times did I say, ‘hoop’?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asks.

“I wanted you to go to the hoop,” I explain to him.

“Then you should have said, ‘Under the hoop!'”

He stomps off, furious at my painfully obvious lack of basketball and communication skills. I look at my friend, his father, who just puts his hands up and says, “Don’t look at me. I deal with this everyday.”

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