Monday, May 23, 2005

Cutting Down The Nets

I'm not sure what inspires fathers to put up basketball hoops.

Certainly, a man who has grown to his tiptoe height of 5'10" should not be allowed to have grandiose illusions of a future NBA star in his loins. It would be more promising, I suppose, to dig up the back yard and fashion deep bunkers and undulating greens that offer future participation in a sport more aligned with the genetic structure of his family.

Alas, ten years ago, my wife and I found ourselves pouring cement into a long hollow tube that promised the durability of Stonehenge. And attaching an "adjustable" backboard and net that would allow our future hoopsters to "grow" with just a simple bump in the ratchet.

Maybe over the course of the next several years, there were enough games of H-O-R-S-E and P-I-G to justify the crushed flowers and narrow escapes with the bushes. But it's questionable as to whether Dad had more "last second" games by himself on the driveway - imagining that winning shot ripping through the nets as time expired - than the actual bumps and grinds of a real game.

As the years passed and the trees surrounding it got taller and began to spread out, the pole became more of an obstacle to avoid when backing out one of the cars. The addition of a third car made it more of a nuisance and the eventual passage of time gave way to skateboards and field hockey sticks.

The past two years found the net simply overgrown with branches and leaves that made even a simple free throw formidable.

When the decision was made several months ago to put the house up for sale, I simply saw the pole and the net as an eyesore - a rusted pylon and a tattered piece of rope.

The backboard came down first…a simple chore of undoing some nuts and bolts. A certain sadness overcame me as I took the frayed net off the rim. Surely, my son Andrew would have some comment when he pulled in the driveway. But a simple, "You're finally getting rid of that old thing?" reminded me that memories are based on moments in time and not necessarily the monuments we erect for pastime.

Andrew and his friends found a way to get rid of the pole. They loaded it up in the back of a minivan with a red t-shirt taped to the back and drove off. "Just don't tell me what you did with it," was all I said.

A bare patch of dirt and stubbles of new grass now stand where the concrete base once filled the hole. The finger-drawn initials in the wet cement, long since hardened by time, are the moments we remember of our childhood and those of our children.

I'm not sure what inspires fathers to put up basketball hoops.

I'm even less sure of the reasons they have for taking them down.