Sunday, January 24, 2010

My mother went to a basketball game last night in Cleveland, and she was inspired to write the following:

Don’t Know Much about Basketball:

A Tribute to My Son between His Birthday and Mine

Over the past two years, one of the joys of my life has been reading my sons blogs on Hoops Addict, the website where his sports commentary is published from time to time. I read every story, though I don’t know much about basketball. What I do know, I learned from attending his games when he played at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland. Of course, I learned a bit before then from watching the New York Knicks when I was in undergraduate school at Barnard College of Columbia University. So I do know how the game is played and scored, but I have not followed various teams or players of any particular team as well as he has. I know stars, and now that I’m back home in Ohio, living in Beachwood, a suburb of Cleveland and living near my mom, who still lives in my hometown of Akron and talks about LeBron James as if he’s one of her own birth sons, I know who LeBron and Shaq are. That’s no big deal for most, but for me, it’s huge, since I don’t know as much about the Cavaliers as those who follow sports, teams, progress toward the play-offs, all-star games, and so on.

What I do know is my son is a phenomenal sports writer. What I do know is that he recently got an interview of a lifetime with Kareem Abdul Jabbar and made his dad, younger brother, and me so very proud. As an English professor by training, I know good writing when I see it, and my son can write! I always tell him so. I also tell him how proud I am of who he is, what he has accomplished, and how he carries himself as a human being. His 35th birthday on January 20th was an opportunity to remind him of all these things and to tell him how grateful I am that God smiled on me with such good sons. Rashad always reminds me that he is my firstborn, as if I don’t remember that glorious outcome of the nine-month privilege of carrying him in my womb!

Though his dad and I are no longer married after our 21-year marriage ended in divorce, we have at least reconciled as friends and that’s a good thing. We share pride in both of our sons. But because we are both writers ourselves, I know we have both taken extra pride in reading Rashad’s blogs and bearing witness to the payoff we get for his good upbringing and education. His undergraduate degree from Hampton University in English and Education has put him in good stead. Jamal writes music, so I guess it’s in my sons’ DNA to write!

I can say the same for myself. My undergraduate degree from Barnard in English and Education, coupled with two more degrees—one from New York University and a third from Case Western Reserve University, where I earned my Ph.D. in English, and where I now serve as Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and where I hold a faculty appointment as a tenured full professor in the Department of English, have all put me in good stead as well. God has blessed me with professional opportunities that are over and above all I could have imagined and I am grateful.

What prompted all of this reflection, however, is not really Rashad’s birthday or my upcoming 58th one on January 26th. What really prompted this reflection is getting an invitation from one my classmates in Leadership Cleveland to join him and his colleagues for the Cavaliers’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. His corporation has a suite at the Q Arena, so the invitation included reserved parking, dinner, a seat in the suite, and the company of a few other LC classmates and some of his corporate partners. I tend to reserve weekends for errands, manicures, pedicures, driving to Akron to check on my mom and stepdad, and attending church, where I serve as a lay minister. To hear some folks’ analysis, I’m a workaholic with a boring life. To hear my friends tell it, I need to begin having a life. I don’t focus on what they say. I just try to take care of business and live so God will be pleased with my life.

But as I read the email reminder that I had not responded to the invitation from my LC classmate to go the Cavs game, it dawned on me that the beginning of a new decade and the approach of my birthday, was a good opportunity to begin thinking about how I could infuse a bit more enjoyment into my busy life. I’m a joyful person by nature and by way of my gratitude for God’s blessings over my life. I know I can also get in a rut, so I’m grateful that I decided to accept the invitation and check out a Cavs game. Going to my first game under these somewhat privileged circumstances made the decision that much more palatable. After I navigated my way to a parking space, through the screening at the arena, and through the madding crowd to our suite, I thought—what a neat way to go to a basketball game!

The entire experience was high drama for me. I was one of two black folks in this group and one of four women. Of the eight men, four of them were my LC classmates, so I did not feel like a stranger. The outing had a quasi-networking feel that I associate with my business and professional life, but it felt easy, comfortable and safe. All the men were married, except one, so there was no chance that this gathering would be anything but professional and respectable. What made it special is the series of rich conversations we had between enjoying all the good food—it was quite a spread—and talking about what it’s like living and working in Cleveland, being in Leadership Cleveland, and learning how we can contribute to solving the challenges our city and region are experiencing in recent months. Everyone was amazed I had lived here an entire year and had yet to go to a Cavs game. They felt they were all ambassadors to the land of the Cavaliers.

As I watched the fire come out of the sky as each Cavalier team player was introduced, I knew I was in for high drama. I’m so out of it, I was talking about remembering Earth Wind & Fire concerts with special effects. We all started dating ourselves about the 70s and 80s in the world of rock, pop, and R &B concerts where these special effects became the norm. But when you don’t get out much, all of this is a big deal again. I slipped, however, into what I enjoy—chatting with people to learn more about them and to share stories about life and living—when it dawned on me that the game had gotten close and the outcome was not so definite. I stopped talking to everyone and got nervous. I didn’t want the Cavs to lose on my birthday. My suitemates had insisted that I get a piece of chocolate mousse cake for my birthday, they sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and all was well. But when I looked up and discovered that the game was tied (I think at 95 to 95), I got nervous. I couldn’t talk. I almost couldn’t breathe. I didn’t want anyone to foul and I started getting angry about missed shots at the free throw line. I began pacing and then peering first at the screen and then down on the court itself. I didn’t know what to do to calm myself down, so I just glared at the time clock, hoping that time would be kind to the Cavs. It was. The final score of 100 to 99 was all she wrote! I hugged my friends and headed for the crowd to return to my car. I was a happy camper and I had just gotten an early birthday gift, not to mention a wonderful Saturday night outing.

No one will ever ask me to do a sports column. That’s fine. I don’t do sports writing. My son Rashad does that very well and he doesn’t need me, though I occasionally point out something I think he could have said or edited out or in, after the fact. He’s always appreciative. Still, he’s got the sports writing skills. I don’t know much about basketball. But what I do know is I love my son, I love life, and I love the way I felt connected to him in a very special way last night.

January 24, 2010


Sab D said...

That's what's up!!! If we could just have a pic of mom spinning a basketball on her fingertip & a throwback jersey on ....

See man, even great writers appreciate your work.

maxwellsmusze said...

WOW! I am blown away!!! This is so awesome that your mom recognizes you talents and took the time to express her admiration and pride in writing. Amazing:)

amy said...

What a fantastic write up! It is wonderful to see how proud she is of you, and that she took the time to express it in writing. Thanks for sharing it :)

spirit_55 said...

Happy belated Birthday, Rashad!

I thouroughly enjoyed your mom's write-up. You do her proud and the piece just oozed love and admiration and appreciation for you. Mothers really do know best.

Great piece; thanks so much for sharing it with us.

£ said...

aww. that's beautiful. I got the warm fuzzies! aren't mothers the best?

thanks for sharing :)

sixfive said...

Wow! I see where you get your talent at writing from. That was great.