Overtime: A Basketball Parable (chapter 30)


Here’s Chapter 30.  You can buy the book by clicking here.


AND REST DOES COME TO ME NOW, in a way that I have not felt since I have been stuck on this bench. More than that. I have not rested so fully, so completely, since I was a child. I come to full awareness of my surroundings again as the day comes to an end and I anticipate, once again, the sad frustration of Sparks and Murphy. But with this deep rest I am renewed and now restless in a way that I have not been since I have been here. I feel more now like I might have felt during my days as a coach. I sense my confinement and long to move and engage and make some impact. I allow myself to wonder and to hope that the confessions I have made to Kelso and his forgiveness of me may work some change in this evening’s shadowy drama.


When they appear, the change that is apparent is not in Sparks, but in Murphy. His image is the fainter and more blurred of the two, but the change in his movement is unmistakable. Between shots he looks directly at me. Until this evening, I had absolutely no reason to believe that either of the boys even knew I was here, but between shots Murphy looks directly at me. It is unmistakable. He knows I am here and in his look he is trying to communicate something. It is indecipherable to me, in part because I have taught myself to ignore Murphy’s facial expressions. I know that they are never real. But what about now? Why this change?

And then Murphy breaks the infernal monotony. He grabs a rebound off of the rim and instead of whipping the ball back to Sparks, he bends down and rolls the ball down the length of the court, to me. The ball rolls slowly, but it comes directly toward my bench. I look up from the rolling ball to Murphy, but he has disappeared. Sparks is standing alone, twenty feet from the rim, waiting for the ball to be given back to him.


It is not the product of any conscious decision or struggle, but as the ball comes within my reach I leave the bench and pick it up. I feel strangely empowered, as if I were in the strength of my youth and I do the only thing possible. I walk the length of the court, dribbling the ball.


With each step, Mark Sparks’ figure grows more definite, more solid, more real. When he recognizes me he drops his head and I can see tears falling onto the court.


Hey, Mark. I say. I think I know what you’re doing wrong here. I’m ready to start this conversation by telling him to use his legs more, to trust the old high-arch he used to put through, time after time.


He shakes his head and struggles to speak and finally says, “I know. It’s not what I am doing wrong, it’s what I have done wrong. I know what I did wrong. I disrespected you. I turned my back on you and all you did for me.   Then I did it again. You gave me a chance. I should not have done it. There was no call for it. No justification for it. I should have apologized before, but I was hurt and proud and I just hated you more and more. I am sorry. So very sorry.”


“I forgive you.”


At this, the twenty-three year old kid drops to his knees, sobbing. I take his hand and bring him back up and turn him again toward the basket. “This is over, I say. I forgive you. It’s over. There is nothing more to it. Now, straighten back up and let’s see that famous shot of yours again. Use your legs, Mark.”   I bounce the ball to him and watch him resume that odd stance and the steady eye on the rim and he almost smiles and sends the ball aloft and it swishes through the crummy net.


I corral the ball and instead of throwing it back to him, I hold it and walk back in front of him. “There’s one more thing,” I tell him. “One more thing that we have to settle. I did you wrong, too.”


He looks surprised and confused and makes no response.


“You know that business with Furman?”


“Yeah. I heard about it. That’s what I could have had. If I had just come to see you. I know. I was stupid. Really stupid. I don’t know why I did it.”


“Well, you shouldn’t have heard about it.”


“Why not?”


“Because I should not have talked about it. It was nobody’s business but ours. I was wrong to let it out. I did it for bad reasons, selfish reasons. Nobody else should have ever heard about it. Your dad. Nobody.”


“But then I wouldn’t have known what I missed.”


“Might have been better off that way.”


“I don’t know. I don’t know. I needed to be here. I needed to make this apology. Might never have done it otherwise.”


“Well, that’s something we’ll never know. But we won’t need to.   I just need you to forgive me.


“I forgive you. If I hadn’t been stupid, you’d a never been put in that situation.


“Doesn’t matter. Wrong is still wrong.



“Here, one more.” I toss him the basketball.


I know what is coming, but I am still surprised to see it. Sparks takes the ball and fires a high-arching twenty-two footer that rips the net and he disappears. I gather the ball in and with a mixture of overwhelming and conflicting emotions I head back to my place on the bench.

copyright 2015

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