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Hoops loses luster in the Walker household

As I speed toward middle age, I've drawn a conclusion about myself. No, not that. I've discovered that I seem to be losing interest in the sport of basketball. You're right, that's no big deal, and it could be a whole lot worse. I could be getting disinterested in eating.

I never formally played basketball as a youngster but always enjoyed neighborhood pick-up games, HORSE and grueling hatchet contests in PE class. I have fond memories of Sunday afternoon games in the old gymnasium in Tignal. For $5 a group could play full court for two hours.

My only coaching experience in basketball was during my fourth year in the profession when, in an emergency, I had to step in and coach the Jenkins County junior varsity boys' team. We won 10 and lost four, which I thought was pretty good for a knuckleheaded football coach. It was then that I realized that I was too close to the referees to ever be real successful at directing roundball.

During my coaching years, I was always very loyal to my colleagues that coached basketball and their players. I made every effort to go to their games, at home and on the road. Pam and I enjoyed supporting the youngsters, many of whom we taught every day in the schoolhouse. At the smaller schools, they were also our football players. We just developed a habit of being there.

After my coaching days I found myself more interested in the college game. Not to the extent of football, but I have made lots of trips to Athens over the years to watch the Georgia Bulldogs play. I've even ventured to the closer locales like Atlanta, Columbia and Savannah to watch them play away from home.

As time went by, I even found myself watching various college games on the tube. It is competition and usually much more appealing than the normal TV trash. College basketball became especially enjoyable during the dark, cold early evenings of January and February. March Madness is a unique sporting commodity in its own right.

As I flipped channels, I would occasionally even stop on an NBA game if it was close and in its final minutes. I didn't have a clue who the players were and would not dare watch an entire game, but I might get to see a buzzer beating winning shot, or more likely, a fight.

I have been to only four Georgia games this season, and they have a decent team. I have been to zero high school games. I seldom let the clicker stop on a televised game unless Georgia is playing. Something within me has changed my perspective about watching basketball, and I have no idea what in the world it is. It is a new phenomenon for me to lose interest in a sport that I have always enjoyed.

By chance, I bumped into local physician Joe Wills and was sharing this with him, and he admitted feeling somewhat the same way. He has a daughter playing basketball collegiatelly, and he told me how he enjoyed watching her team play, but otherwise he just couldn't get into it anymore. He suggested that there was less strategy and more of an emphasis on athleticism in today's game, and he didn't see the many little nuances of the sport demonstrated much at all these days.

Now Joe is a lot smarter man than I, but we are about the same age. So his thoughts made me wonder. Could it be that passing the ball to the open man, screening, picks-and-rolls and in-your-jock defense that we observed growing up had become too much of a lost art? Maybe it is not that simple or there is a more complicated reason, but my interest has waned, and I don't like it.

It's hard to make yourself do something when in your gut you just don't care. I'm going to fight like heck to overcome this problem. I'd hate to wake up one morning in September and find myself feeling the same way about the sport that's played with a ball that's not so round.

Naw, ain't no way.

Web posted on Thursday, February 01, 2007

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