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For the Tears of the Game

There are few occasions in our culture when it is permissable for grown men to openly cry.

One of those occasions is when they win a sports championship. (Actually, can anyone think of another?)

For the first time in over ten years I watched the NBA Finals last night. As I lay in bed–awake, and unable to fall asleep from the excitement of the whole thing (midway through the series E and S converted me into a Laker fan, I know)–I pictured the wet, exuberant faces of Pao Gasol and Derek Fisher as they accepted their trophy and wondered how much that kind of emotional display has to do with my love for the game.

It’s a love, as I mentioned, that has been long dormant.

Growing up, my dad and I were die-hard Knick fans. We had partial season tickets (I allowed him one call of “Defense” per quarter), and the rest of the games we watched religiously–and with uninhibited volume–from our family room in Brooklyn. The first and only fan letter I ever wrote was to Hubert Davis, the backup shooting guard always overshadowed (but rarely outplayed) by the scrappy John Starks. Hubie never wrote back.

But then the Knicks diminished in profound fashion: we’d grown accustomed to being fans of a team that could compete for a championship, even if they never actually got one. We abandoned them. The first time that I watched any basketball team since then was this past year, when E started taking me to Lobo games (UNM’s college team is actually quite good).

It’s been thrilling for me to rediscover my love for watching the sport. Honestly, it’s the only one I enjoy: baseball is too boring, football is too slow, I never played soccer and don’t know the rules. I’m sure I could get into any of them if I put my mind to it, but the nostalgia I have for basketball is something special.

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