Old Man Hoops: The Cancellations of Games 8 & 9

Mar 7, 2013 by


The snow was falling lightly one late afternoon in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Notifications for the next day’s school cancellations scrolled across the local news telecast as I arrived home from work and ventured up to my room to dress for tonight’s game.

I received a text at approximately 7:40 PM from our team manager.  It simply stated, “Game still on, who’s in?”  I replied.

I received a second text eight minutes later again from our team manager.  This time it said, “Game cancelled.”   I chalked it up to this particular southern states’ overreaction when the words snow or ice appear in the weather report

Disappointed I sat on the couch and watched an unmemorable NBA basketball game.  The snow continued to fall throughout the night.


A few days later I learned that our game was not called due to inclement weather.  The first and second games on that particular night went on as scheduled.  We were scheduled to play the final game of the evening.

It occurred during play of the second game.  A player collapsed on the court from an apparent heart attack. Paramedics were called to the church gymnasium but it was too late.  He died before arriving to the hospital.


Upon hearing what had occurred from a teammate, I had an empty reaction.  It felt like being told someone twisted their ankle.   I gave a half hearted effort to ofconjure up some type of emotion, but nothing came.  Maybe my reaction, or lack thereof, to this man’s death had something to do with him being faceless in my mind.  We had not played his team, so all I had was a first name and that he was only 36 years of old.  Before the conversation had ended with my teammate I began to tune out.  He continued to relay details of this man’s untimely death and I found myself in thought about something work related.   After our conversation had concluded I went on about my day.

A few hours later I sat at my desk alone eating lunch when the thought of the players’ death entered my conscience.  The thought did not contain a made up vision of this player who died in our Church League but rather of Hank Gathers lying on the court taking his final breath while surrounded by his coaches.  Then I thought briefly about Reggie Lewis.



Maybe that’s how athletes are wired to think.  They trivialize the horrific injuries they witness or hear about.  It’s an essential aspect of playing competitive sports.  When you compete in a sport, no matter the level of play, you never think about the possibility of being injured, let alone dying.  It won’t happen to me is the only thought you have.   It was mine.

I imagine some would call that naïve, and maybe they’re correct.  It still doesn’t change my mind set.  It never has and I assume it never will.   The possible risk of injury while playing basketball will not deter me from continuing to play.  For me, as long I as I can make it up and down the court, I will roll the dice.  It’s worth it every single time.


As i’m getting ready for this weeks game, I look down to my phone and read our game is canceled.  The team we were scheduled to play is the team with the player who died last week.  They notified the church they were dropping out of the league.

I want next week’s game to be right now.  I just want to play basketball again.


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