Dreams of hoop 

I had a dream recent

I had a dream recently. It was a dream of a movie, a film where Matt Damon stars as Damon Bailey. It"s set during Bailey"s IU years, playing for coach Knight, though my dream-movie also has flashbacks showing Damon"s early basketball life. The packed high school gymnasiums, the local media obsession, the perfect parabola of his jump shot. My dream-film narrative arc is a saga of Bailey"s fall from Hoosier boy icon to complex man. The protagonist"s story in the film turns on how Damon Bailey, who tried all his life to please one father figure coach after another, finally had to fail - failure, in this case, being not living up to his fans" expectations. In fact, Damon Bailey"s only possible rebellion was this failure, and in my dream, you can see the pain emblazoned on Matt Damon"s face, along with the true triumph of the transformation of his character. The final scene is Bailey, an adult, fallen hoopster, ball tucked under his arm, staring up at a dilapidated rim attached to a barn on a farm in Indiana. The implied question: Can he find his way back to the pure love of basketball? Where else could dreams be made like this than in Indiana, sprung from the brain of a person - me - who grew up believing he was welcome on any basketball court in the world. That premise has proven true over the years. I have played pickup basketball in any number of cities in the United States, from Muscle Beach in L.A. to Jamaica Plains in Boston. Over a decade ago, I played on the island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea. In fact, given my towering height over my Greek playmates, I was the dominating force on the court. In subsequent days, however, the Italians showed up, and I lost my tallest tourist status. Basketball is the last egalitarian game, a place where, theoretically-speaking, anyone - man, woman, boy or girl - can walk up to any basketball court on the planet and say, "Next," or, "Need a player?" There is no other consistent opportunity for pickup football or soccer or baseball or tennis. There"s no pickup lacrosse, no come-and-play croquet. No other game besides basketball creates this sense of possibility, that if you"re driving by a playground or a church, and there"s a group of hoopsters, you can stop and join in. I had another dream about basketball, and this one was years ago: Under the guise of Guinness Book of World Records-type motivation, I would set off to establish the world record for the most baskets made in the most number of different hoops. The vision was this - and actually, I"ll call it a vision, since I no longer remember if this idea spawned from a night dream or a day dream: With b-ball in hand, I"d travel the country, hitchhiking or driving some old, American car like a Plymouth Valiant or Dodge Dart. Then, every time I saw a backboard and hoop, I would stop, knock on the door, tell them of my plans and hand them a camera to take a shot while I took mine. Whether I left immediately or not would be up to them. Want to stay for dinner? Sure, why not. There I could learn about them, their lives, their struggles and when I left, I would be handed a sack of nifty snacks for the road. Soon, my legend would spread. I would be greeted by faces of recognition. The table would be set, the picnic basket already packed. I never took that trip. Instead, I stayed here, in the heart of Indiana, and played basketball. I played basketball with friends, with family, with strangers. I played it regularly at the same place, or I stopped spontaneously, grabbed the hightops out of the trunk and joined a game of strangers. No legend, no accolade, no Guinness Book of World Records, no dreams, no movie, no myth. Just the other day, I was cutting back the pernicious honeysuckle that threatens to engulf the basketball hoop in my driveway. As I was snipping and snapping away, I discovered a long-forgotten basketball, sitting in the foliage. Poor thing, I thought, and reached and flicked it toward me. It was covered in wet dirt and smelled like the earth, Hoosier soil, where anything can grow with a vengeance. I started to carry the ball to the garden hose to clean it off. Then I spotted the pillbugs crawling across the surface of the ball. This was their world, their Mothership. I carried the ball back to its spot beneath the bush, setting it into its divot in the earth. Basketball is a game played all over the world. And beneath this bush, it"s home to a hundred roly-poly bugs, some slugs and some ants. Either way, it all stems from here, Indiana, the basketball capital of the world, the driveways and parks and barnyards and gymnasiums, where stars are made, where icons fall and heroes big and small can sink any shot at the buzzer. The 2002 World Basketball Championship for Men will be held Aug. 28 through Sept. 8 at Conseco Fieldhouse and the RCA Dome. Sixteen teams will compete; tickets can be purchased via a toll free number, 866-849-4922, or via the Internet, www.2002worldbasketball.com or www.Ticketmaster.com or by visiting Conseco Fieldhouse or RCA Dome box offices.

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Jim Poyser

Jim Poyser

Bio:
Jim Poyser is Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, a statewide organization that was one of over two dozen nonprofit partners in Greening the Statehouse. A former managing editor of NUVO, he won HEC’s Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2013.

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