February 24, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

The clock is ticking down to the final seconds. Your team is trailing by one point and the ball is in your hands with the packed gymnasium watching your every move. You launch the shot as the buzzer sounds. It’s supposed to go in, allowing your teammates to rush onto the court to hoist you into the air as the fans applaud and cheer, creating a memory of a lifetime.

Unfortunately for Jared Shelley that memory was never lived. The senior, in his final game at the Scotland County gym, saw his last-second shot hit the rim and bounce away unanswered. My heart went out to Shelley and fellow senior Greg Neagle who together labored through a tumultuous 3-18 basketball season for SCR-I.

It would have only been fair to allow one of those two players to shine in their final moments at SCR-I. But fate would not have it, and the Tigers lost another heartbreaker.

I reflected on my own high school playing days. I definitely was no star. I was a bench warmer my entire career until my senior season. Many of my friends had quit by that time, moving on to other interests or simply giving into pride that wouldn’t allow them to sit behind more talented players (or at least the players whom received the playing time.) I don’t remember ever actually making the decision to stick with it, I guess I just loved to play.

My last year I was named the starting point guard on a team with high expectations. The anticipation of greatness was never released as we struggled through a rough year that saw me playing every minute of some contests and very little in others. Let’s just say it was a frustrating year, and leave it at that.

However, I do remember stealing the ball from the Mexico point guard and taking it the other way for a layup and a foul to start our own Senior Night back in 1989. I can still feel the high fives I got from a couple of fans on the front row. We went on to lose the game, and plenty of games for that matter.

I never made a game-winning shot. I did not earn any post-season honors. There are no videotapes of my good games, or photos from the newspaper of me making a play. And I would go back and do it all over again if I had the chance.

As I was walking home from the game (it was the first time all year that there were enough fans present that it was closer for me to walk from home than to lazily find a closer parking spot) my mind kept wandering back to those two kids. Initially I felt regret that they had not experienced more success this year.

But then my mind turned to their fellow classmates, that’s who I really felt sorry for. I know for a fact that there are plenty of other individuals in the SCR-I class of 2005 that have basketball skills that could have contributed to a better team this season. I suspect they were feeling a bit remorseful when all of the SCR-I seniors were honored with their parents between games in the Senior Night festivities. I’m sure Greg and Jared would tell you it has been a long season. But we should all be very proud of them for making the effort and sticking with their team through thick and thin.

I hope this doesn’t read like some form of indictment of kids that chose not to play sports. Basketball is not for everyone, I understand this. I agree, that if your heart is not in it, you shouldn’t just tag along for the ride. But I will say that I have never run into a person 10 years after school was out that told me “Man, I wish I hadn’t played basketball in high school.” Kids, there is plenty of time to grow up, get a job, hunt, fish, get married, surf the internet or whatever else you are doing besides going out for basketball. But there is no time machine that will allow you to go back for a do-over and make up for that decision not to play.

Sure it’s easier not to play. You don’t have to get up early for practice or stay after school for workouts. There’s no coach hounding you to get better and to work harder. There is no heartbreak from a losing season. But then again there will always be the lingering questions “How good could I have been,” or “Would I have made a difference.” And unless you are on the court, there is absolutely no chance you will ever make that last second shot to remember for a lifetime. We all don’t make that shot, but unless you play, you’ll never even have the opportunity.

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