Early January always means upheaval in my life, and the name of that upheaval is basketball. Middle-school basketball: shoes squeaking on the floor, wild throws, the boys self-conscious in baggy shorts, the girls faster, taller, more aggressive. Late dinners, homework not done, and driving across town to some brand-new middle school in an unfinished neighborhood. UNLV games: sitting high in the upper balcony, watching the cheerleaders jump around, the lights dim, fireworks shoot up, the players run across a red carpet onto the floor and everyone shouts as if it isn't just another weeknight.
With me, basketball is definitely a childhood thing. It's long dark winter nights, listening to Kentucky game on the radio, drawn into an unmapped, virtual world of reputation, gossip ("good squad this year") and rival schools ("after that the 'Cats'll be up in South Bend to face Notre Dame"), learning about working off the clock and drawing a charge and that'll be two from the charity strike. (No one says "charity strike" -- a.k.a. free throw line -- anymore but it was a favorite of Cawood Ledford, the UK announcer.)
It's been said that baseball, because its not played on a clock, is a sport which stops time. Basketball is nothing but clock. It's a sport of the individual moment, the moment you're living in, the bobbing wave, to borrow F. Scott Fitzgerald's image, which always seems about to bring you forward, the moment when it seems everything can change.