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PAPERWORK: I’ll be right there, just as soon I make this shot

Sometimes the person you are is the person you were.

As we get older we take breaks from the present and wander into the past. In fact, I think the older we get, the more we journey back.

Back to who we were.

I was reminded of this by a friend who has a habit of making me think. About life. People. Stuff like that.

Bob is a retired newsman in Indiana and when he’s on Facebook his simple posts turn into stories. Stories that open doors and invite you to come in and sit a spell.

I was drawn into his recent comment and listened as friends gathered around to share memories.

Memories of shooting hoops. Basketball.

Bob’s post was short with a telling point. As usual. He included a photo: at a distance a single man on an outdoor court, knees bent, about to float the ball to the hoop.

The man is a silhouette. An icon for Bob’s thoughts:


“When I was a kid I spent many hours happily alone shooting baskets outdoors on a bare asphalt court behind the high school — some days in 40 degree temperatures.

“With no net on the basket.

“Go chase your misses.

“Indoors was a snap after that.

“Can I get a witness …”

I should note Bob’s nickname when I met him long ago was “Giant,” and he was a standout player in high school.

Now, those who know me also know I’m not a sports guy.

I’m not into player stats, painted faces and costumes, and arm chair coaching. Sports stories that touch me are about love of the game and personal endurance and passion.

And that’s what Bob gave me … with these replies to his post:

So it wasn’t just me doing this. And the ball had an uncanny tendency to find the back edge of the concrete driveway and bounce away from me at an angle and then sail down the yard, sometimes into the creek behind our house, making its way downstream a short distance before I could recover it. Then back to the foul line I went.”

Bob replied: “My time was actually up in small town Northern Illinois. I had to cut (through) neighbor's back yards to get there with my $7.95 rubber basketball. Shot baskets until my fingers went numb. Wouldn't trade that experience for nuthing.”

More stories:

“Me and my BF (up the side road) used to play outside at his house all year. He had tamped down a half-court sized area beside the chicken house making a hard-clay court. We had 5 balls between us and kept all but the one we (played) with on his back porch beside a kerosene heater — when one got low and flattish we would put it at the back of the (queue) and take the front (heated/full) one and continue.”

“The goal in my back yard was dirt and mud (in the rain and snow), pretty uneven, and it had utility lines hovering about 8 feet high cutting diagonally on one corner. I used the wires to practice getting some arch on the ball. The backboard was one of those half moon kind and the rim was always a little wobbly. I could bounce the ball off the back wall of the house to simulate getting a pass as I cut to goal. (At least I could until Dad noticed I was crumbling the bricks.) The whole setup was too small to play even a two-on-two game, but it was great for shooting. And because I knew the wobble and the terrain and how to shoot over the wires, I was undefeated in H.O.R.S.E. championships on that court.”

“My twin brother and I and an occasional neighbor kid shot hoops in the winter in our tobacco barn on the farm where we grew up in central Kentucky. Nailed a bucket or can with the bottom cut out to a barn rafter. No thought of a real rim much less a net. Barn had a dirt floor rough as a corn cob. Anything but fancy. But sure was fun.”

Love of the game. You can feel it, right?

I paid my dues on driveway courts.

In fact, when I see a hoop there’s something inside me that wants to pound a ball into a sweet spot then do the little hop and push a perfect arc through a soft net.

Or into the gutter just above the garage door. Arggg … the crunching, denting noise that made. Which usually ended the play when my friend’s dad rushed out to assess the damage.

Gee Bob, I guess I had a memory to share also. In fact … I’m remembering more even as I write this.

There you go. Making me think again.

Making me look back at the person I was. Reminding me that the person I used to be is an important part of who I am now.

Always a part of me. It’s all inside.

Handy for the next time you cleverly ask a simple question like, “Hey, did you ever shoot hoops as a kid?”

LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the former managing editor of The Times, now retired. Please email thoughts, comments or ideas to or mail care of The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.

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