Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Opinion: Hoops and lessons learned

by SCOTT MILLER/Guest Opinion
| August 1, 2022 11:53 AM

For well over the past couple of decades Kellogg has hosted the SilverHoops 3on3 Basketball Tournament every last weekend of July. A simple concept of having three players play a little street ball against three other players on a hot summer day has turned into the largest basketball tournament in North Idaho and continues to bring teams from around the West. Kids to adults compete for the chance to walk away with the designation of Champion for their age group and the battles on the court are fierce and at times fiery, but at the end of the game, the teams usually shake hands or bump fists and move on to the next game.

Keeping the games going on each court is the monitor, or the person that makes sure the score is correct and settles disputes such as who gets the ball when it goes out of bounce. The kids have a ref to keep the peace, but as the age groups increase, the hope is that they can ref themselves and the monitor makes sure that when a foul is called the player takes their free throw and at times, the monitor will also bring the teams together when things are getting a little too hot and play the role of the cooler. I was a monitor this weekend and actually it’s a pretty good gig. I like being around the kids as they get after it and still admire athleticism when I see, even if it is basketball (please understand, I’m a wrestler).

Events like this are good for communities like mine, they are a time of celebration and we get to show off our town a little. We used to take this for granted, but after the big lock-down of 2020 we’ve come to realize that nothing is for sure anymore, so seeing our little basketball tournament back up and running, and the return of the fans and vendors is giving us a little sense of normal in what are, without a doubt, abnormal times. We cherish that.

The players come to win, you can see it in their eyes when they step on the court and start playing. This is not basketball for the weak-minded, you are going to get hacked and shoved and tempers are going to be elevated at times. You have the trash-talkers who like to let everyone know just how good they are when they drop a three. Trash-talkers chirp pretty much throughout the game and for the most part it is comical to listen to them, but at times they go too far, push the envelope over the edge. Maybe this is because they are risk takers (I mean, you do have to back up your talk or it’s coming back at you without any mercy shown).

Then there is the player that can’t shoot to save their life (though they try), so they make up for it by being the stopper. Problem is, their idea of stopping someone is basically tackling them. Their arms are never in control and then they are always surprised when someone responds to their antics. In hockey, they would be the goon I suppose. But then, you get the player who is able to just take over the game and is something to see. They are able to get into their opponent’s head without the trash talk or the goofery on defense. It is a beautiful sight to behold when this athlete is on the court. How they control the pace of the game, they never seem bothered, and why should they, they simply can’t be stopped. They don’t get too up when things are going well and they don’t get too low when struggle ensue. At the end of the game, they are the first to congratulate their opponent and move on to what is in front of them. I love that player; we need more of them. Talkers could definitely learn from them and goons will never stop them. Maybe something for those players to think about.

Have you ever wondered why an adult thinks it’s a good idea to talk trash to kids playing ball on the court at a 3on3 tournament, or is just me? I just don’t get it. Before I rant on this, I want to make something clear, the vast majority of the fans are great, they cheer for their team and are encouraging. They are a lot like me I guess, just wanting to enjoy young people (and some old ones too) displaying their skills. They are family people and this is an outing to support something that is for all of us if we choose.

But there are always those few, loud few I might add, that think that a 3on3 tournament in a small town in Idaho is the equivalent to the NCAA, NBA or WNBA championship game. They verbally abuse those playing, amp up the hostilities that weren’t there at the very beginning of the game and act as if they are doing something good. This weekend we had a kid’s game stopped and both teams forced to forfeit because two fathers decided that they needed to get into a battle with each other and then two mothers decided to join in. What a great way to display to your child who is just wanting to play a game what sportsmanship is. I give a lot of credit to the guy that knew when enough was enough. One guy taught a lesson, whether or not those folks choose to learn from it is another question, but he let those folks know that it would be them explaining to their kids why their tournament was over because they had the self-control of 6-year-olds.

Kudos to the staff of the tournament, and the head guy for recognizing that this type of behavior is not to be condoned. We don’t see that anymore which may be why some people think it is perfectly acceptable to be, ahem, an asshole. It’s not. It’s good to see that in a small town, civility is still expected and there are consequences when it is discarded. Made me proud to be a volunteer for this group. Their priorities are correct. Now, let’s see if the small minority of fans learned anything. I bet they did, though it may take a day or two to sink in. I bet they feel some embarrassment from their actions and I bet they may be better behaved in the future because sometimes all it takes is being called out on it. I have hope for them, because one man made a decision not to let it stand. Thanks Jeff.

Volunteers are becoming a vanishing breed and that’s sad. Even in the small town where we know each other, it is difficult to find folks to step up to the plate and help out. But to those that do volunteer, they are special people. They are part of the community and believe in the values instilled in them and want to be part of making something work rather than complaining why it ‘wasn’t very good.’ We’re all busy, I get that, and some have spent years doing volunteer work and now are ready to just be ‘a fan.’ But we have many whose idea of volunteering is throwing a few dollars (which is important, don’t get me wrong), but sometimes their hands and minds are more important than their wallets. I do volunteer work, not because I want to be recognized for it, but because it’s important for me to help others. I choose that. I think about the many people that volunteered and helped out when I was growing up and the importance it played in my life and I want to give back because I was very lucky, I now realize.

I also enjoy the feeling of being a part of something that is bigger than myself that comes with being a volunteer. We live in a time where people are less likely to help out and I wonder why. Maybe it is not because they don’t want to, they just don’t know how to get involved. We need to find ways to change that. We need to teach our younger folks the importance of being a part of something that is good where the reward is just that, the art of helping without expectations of receiving something in return. The interesting part is that you do receive something in return. You receive friendship, a feeling of purpose, and most important, a satisfaction of being with others that care about providing something good that carries on past them. Our world has become individualized and lonely which has shown to lead to bad things for all concerned. I personally think that volunteering is a way to combat that. I’m an optimist, I believe that it will grow again.

I love vendors and it was so good seeing them out and about again. I love our local establishments and seeing them support our little event that brought so many into our town this past weekend. These are great people who are doing their best to make our town memorable. I love the food vendors (just ask my stomach), I love our watering holes and seeing the owner smile when I walk in and engage with me, teasing me for my new lobster look and offering a fresh drink to keep me upright (you’re the best Sarah). I love the fact that we welcome folks from all over and try to give them the home feel while they are here. I love my little town who is represented by the vendors and stores and restaurants and motels and provide a smile, a joke, a service and make you feel that you are important. I love the vendors that come from out of town and are welcomed by our home-grown vendors. An event brings the best out of a community and the folks that inhabit it. The vendors bring the smell of the event, and it smells great. They bring the friendliness of the event, and it is catching. They bring laughter and empathy, and we are lucky to have them. Again, the shut-down of 2020 showed a dark side of us, but the warmth is returning and the community is re-awakening and we see that through our vendors.

Bill Russell died yesterday and that saddened me on an otherwise brilliant day of basketball. I wondered how many of the kids knew who he was or the sacrifices he took so all would have opportunities. He was the greatest basketball player I ever knew. You win as many championships as he did and you can’t mistake his brilliance. But more than that, he was a voice. Whether you agreed with him or not on the issues he championed, you had to listen to him. He spoke with sincerity and clarity; he was a straight-shooter but he also listened and he had the greatest laugh I ever heard. He never backed down as a player (just ask Wilt) and he never backed down as a person. He made a mark in his life, and I hope our younger generations take the time to learn more about him. He was a tremendous basketball player, but more than that, he was a great man. I’ll miss you Bill, even if I did hate your Celtics.

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