“You're gonna miss this…”
Dateline: From Downtown
“I could never dunk in high school…”
“So db, when was the last time you played hoops.”
“Really, huh, I wasn’t born until 1973.”
And with that my friend Jason Christie takes two steps further back way into 3-point shot land.
Yep, it’s going to be that kind of game of H O R S E.
“Dude, I can’t believe you made that.”
Frankly, neither can I…
“I’m thinking I may have to bring my “A” game to this.”
Me, I’m thinking I’m glad I brought my health insurance card to this.
And just like that Jason, has an H.
And just like that I was wishing we were playing…P I G.
“You ok db….db…”
“No, the last shot I made with my right arm concerned Tequila and a shot glass.”
And my buddy Jason just smiles.
And backs up two more feet on the court.
“…you're gonna want this back…”
“…dunking in high school was a manhood thing…”
It is 15 feet, from the Free-throw line to the Glass, the front of the backboard, give or take an inch for high school, college, or the pros.
It is 47 years for me the distance between the foul line and the hoop.
I was a skinny kid, 130-pounds when holding a 10 pound medicine ball. Took me 25 years to grow out of the size 29 waist pants, size small T-shirts.
All that came back as I stood at the line and bounced the basketball, I saw 47 years of my life trail the arch of the ball.
Let me ask you this, if you stood on the free-throw line and took the shot what if magically as the ball arched through the air you could see your whole life play out behind the ball.
Play from the beginning of you to the end of you.
Would you watch.
Would you look in.
And then this, if you could, where would you hit the pause button.
How close, how far, from the basket, would the ball stop.
“…you're gonna wish these days…”
“…you know a stick your chest out moment…”
“I had a coach db, a basketball coach, he used to tell me, tell the team before every game the same thing every time, told us, ‘these are the best days of your life,” he told…”
The round brown basketball is spinning in Jason’s hands, I think it is physically impossible for him to just hold it without the game within him from coming out.
“…us that before we took to the court and you know what…”
And the spin of the ball in his hands slows down.
“…it’s what I tell my kids now, tell them the same thing but back when I heard it from coach I thought he was just crazy, just an old guy talking about his past.”
I don’t think you can define age by the skin the person is within, look not into my wrinkles, look instead into my eyes.
Skin just holds us in.
It is the soul where the fire glows.
Jason tosses me the ball, and I toss this back, a smile, because I think his coach was right, sort of, I just smile at the coach quote because 47 years ago I stood at the free-throw line, and now I’m standing there again.
And as I launch the basketball and watch it climb upwards I know this…any days that you are alive are the best days of your life.
Swoosh, we both have…H.
And as I turn and look at Jason, he too is smiling.
“… hadn't gone by so fast…”
“…I practiced everyday, EVERDAY…”
We are standing on a basketball court overlooking Lake Conroe not because I want to play basketball, because I really don’t, I’m not even that much a fan of the sport, we are standing on a basketball court talking basketball because I also do not want to talk about the Bassmaster Classic and fishing.
It is a few days away and it engulfs all those involved with it, and it pretty much swallows those who compete in it.
Jason knows full well what is coming, he is going to be asked over and over about last year’s Classic when it looked like he was going to win but yet lost to his roommate and friend, Edwin Evers.
So what did it feel like…
Over and over.
It’s the sports question equivalent of a reporter asking the dreaded, “How do you feel…” question.
How do you think Jason feels for Gawds sake.
Move on…he has.
So to avoid all of that I ask him this question, “Wanna shoot some hoops.”
And add, “No questions about fish or the Classic, just two dudes talking smack on the playground.”
“Yep,” was his total response.
“You still got game dude.”
Let me tell you about his game, better yet…watch this:
Yep, he got game.
“…these are some good times…”
“…never could do it, no one in my class could either…”
Jason and I are sitting in an Italian Restaurant in Willis, Texas, he is eating fried shrimp and catfish, I am not.
My pasta is bubbling.
Jason orders an unsweetened ice tea and puts 2 pink packets of sugar into it.
I order Sweet Tea and put a straw in it.
Two salads with Ranch.
I eat the breadsticks, Jason does not. He is talking and sipping I’m eating and dipping.
Listen in to the official line:
“I was the #2 shooting guard, played all through high school, played 2 years at a JUCO (junior college) then transferred and played 2 years at Division 2 college, Northeastern State in Oklahoma. In total I played 4 years, 1992-96.”
A quick reach out to the worldwide research department and I see that to this day Jason holds the Riverhawks record for 3 point FG’s made in a game…11/10/1995 vs College of the Ozarks he hit 10, TEN, “tres.”
Dude aced 30 points himself.
Found out all of that to late, here’s both of our “secret” go to trick shots when we get challenged to H O R S E or P I G:
Yeah that went well.
I believe the secret to getting great stories, great interviews is to do it on the interviewee’s terms, NOT MINE.
Accommodate don’t dictate.
And when you do, this happens.
You get the unofficial line:
“By the time I got out of high school I was sort of done with basketball, just wanted to hunt and fish.”
“…so take a good look around…”
“…then one day…”
The fried shrimp has been put down, Jason is on about the hundred stir around the tall plastic cup of Iced Tea, I’m sprinkling crushed red pepper on the pasta and listening, many times not asking a question is the best question you could ask.
“I was totally into hunting and fishing, still am, I was done with basketball but I get a call and an offer to go to this JUCO and it’s for a full ride so I’m home with my parents, Jerry and Pam, and I tell them about the offer to play basketball and go to college on a free ride…”
He stops swirling, I stop sprinkling.
“…and you know what db I see it in their eyes, it’s like a sense of relief comes over them, they are working folks, they don’t have the means to put me through college but they want me to go and then suddenly I have this offer…”
He sips, I’m motionless, just listening.
“…so as I’m sitting there I’m thinking, you know what, why not, if a college is willing to take me and give me tuition and I can get an education and play and my folks don’t have to pay, and it’s near enough that they can come and watch me play as well, they were at every high school game I played…”
I sit there as a parent, and if you are a parent you KNOW this is the moment you hope for, not the free ride, but the sense of you raised the kid right, raised the kid to think of others first, all of it, did we do it right.
“…so I took it, played there 2 years then went on to Northeastern State, and my parents came to every game.”
“You glad you made that decision.”
“Yep, absolutely no regrets.”
“…you may not know it now…”
“…I did it, I dunked and then I dunked again, again, and again…”
Did it surprise me that Jason thought about his parents, thought how it would help them when he made his decision…no.
Here’s proof why, this is an exact txt message I got from Jason before I left my hotel to drive up to Conroe and shoot hoops with him:
“didn't think about you driving in traffic getting here. If you want to wait till 7, that's fine with me.”
I was taking up his time and yet he was concerned and accommodating me.
Jerry and Pam, ya done good.
Jason is married to Amy, a Pharmacist, they live in Oklahoma and have 3 girls.
Jaslyn is 12 and “plays all the sports.”
Ana is 16 and “is into soccer and softball big time.”
And Ali, their oldest, is the girl giggling who took the video of Jason making the basketball shot over his house.
I think the shot is cool but my favorite part is Ali giggling when he makes it, “Mine to db, sometimes when I’m driving I listen to it over and over again not for the shot but for Ali’s giggles, I just love that part.”
Any parent out there gets that.
My children’s giggles get me every time.
And get this, “Ali just got a full ride scholarship to Oklahoma Christian University…”
“…basketball db, for basketball…”
And then, in almost a whisper, “…like me db, like me.”
“…but you're gonna…”
“…thing was I didn’t suddenly grow a couple of inches in height or the hoop wasn’t lowered…”
There is a plaque that hangs in Jason’s home along with all the other plaques he’s been awarded for fishing.
‘cept this one is different in two ways, one, it’s for basketball.
Two…it was given to him from…his parents.
On it they thanked him for all the great times “Mom and Dad” had watching him play.
And now, “Ali will be playing at a college close enough so dad will be able to catch her games.”
It is how the universe is supposed to work.
The quotes you have been reading in this story, those broken up throughout are all from one person…Jason.
Here’s how it ends:
“…but once I knew I could dunk, I COULD DUNK it’s like winning, once you get your first win you get the confidence needed to win again. It’s all about knowing you can do it.”
2 time Elite Series Winner
That’s the official position.
And it is true, no confidence no win.
Two guys, a basketball court, a game of H O R S E.
We stood talking of family, of children, of the game of basketball and the NCAA tournament being played all over America this week.
“db did you see Canyon Berry take the free throw shot.”
“He shot it old school style like his father did, like Rick Berry did.”
And then Jason took the basketball and from the free-throw line shot it the old granny style way, as did I:
I told him it was a good thing I packed my heating pad and Ben-Gay rub with me this trip, he rang after the ball and grabbed it before it rolled into the lake he would soon vie for the Classic Championship on and we walked to my truck laughing and giggling all the way.
On the way back to the hotel with AC/DC on high and me channeling Angus Young it hit me, “Huh, we both ended up with H…”
So who won.
In professional sports it’s all about the wins, just win baby, just win, no free passes.
In H O R S E though, the universe wins.
In this game of H O R S E who won…
Jaslyn, Ana and Ali won.
Jerry and Pam won.
It’s not about what will be the best time of your life, it’s about making the time of your life, the best.
Jason and I both know now, this night was never really about H O R S E.
Instead, it was all about…
…L I F E.
You’re Gonna Miss This