Basketball madness keeps this dad young

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I never thought I would care about anything related to basketball ó†in my mind itís the most boring game ever invented, or at least a close second to curling.

Get ball, pretend to pass ball right, pretend to pass ball left, pretend to throw ball over opposing playerís head, then dribble and drive toward basket, throwing ball at last second to your teammate, who takes a shot and misses, in which case all hell breaks out for one second, or sink basket, in which case, ďrepeat and rinse.Ē Throw in fouls for various obscure and unidentifiable crimes against humanity, some other rules that are entirely at the discretion of referees, and two minutes at the end of the game when life and death are decided, and you have basketball in a nutshell.

It is a nut I never thought I would crack, but I wasnít counting on the persuasive powers of a 6-year-old. Last year about this time, my son Huzhao came home from first grade at Russell School and wanted to know about brackets, NCAA, Division 1, and Gonzaga (which is not a type of cheese). Turns out that I had left my kid badly handicapped on the playground by not handicapping the brackets for him and he wanted to know why.

What could I do? I took a crash course in bracket- ology on the internet and sat down with Huzhao in front of the TV for hours at a time while we both tried to penetrate the mysteries of the Big Dance. By the end of the month-long ritual, we were both hooked on the pure adrenaline of competition (forget how maddeningly random the game itself is) and were fans of not just the Zags, but also the Ducks, the Tar Heels and the Gamecocks.

Not only that, but Huzhao convinced me to put my newfound interest in basketball to good use by joining him on the playground at Russell School to shoot a few hoops of my own. Who knew how much fun it could be to be humiliated by a 6-year-old? I reached back into my 61-year-old memory banks to recall the rules for some playground games and promptly got owned by the little guy, who actually has a pretty good free-throw shot. As for me, I was worn out, but grinning from ear to ear every time I got lucky and sank a basket by mistake.

So now itís March again, and this year I have a 7-year-old who has been waiting eagerly for at least a month to get the show on the road. Today we will sit down and watch the Selection Sunday announcements, and then start picking out our favorites as we watch the process of winnowing the best from the rest.

I guess I owe basketball an apology, sort of. It may be boring, but itís still a great way to keep an old man and his young son on the same team!

Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. He can be reached by email at fmiele@dailyinterlake.com.

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