I don’t believe in reincarnation. But if I did, I might think that legendary sports announcer Howard Cosell has returned to earth as my 6-year-old son.
The sports bug sunk its teeth into Adam shortly after his fifth birthday. Suddenly everything was a game. Suddenly every t-shirt with a basketball or football on it was the coolest shirt in the whole world. Suddenly the channel changed from Nickelodeon to ESPN. Just like that, he was hooked.
Everybody talks about how sponge-like a child’s brain is and that, even when it doesn’t look like they’re listening, they are. But I didn’t believe it until a few weeks ago when I popped out of the house to check on Adam who was shooting hoops on the driveway. I heard him talking and thought our neighbor’s boy had joined him. But when I saw him, he was alone. He didn’t see me so I crept closer to hear the details of his monologue.
“It’s Arkansas versus Missouri and Arkansas has the ball. They take it down the court. He shoot-ed the ball. Oh, it’s in and out. Arkansas comes up with the rebound so they have another shot at it. He shoot-ed again. He scores! And now Missouri goes down the court and it’s a race to the basket. He shoot-ed and he scores! It’s a close game. The score is 14 to 12, and here comes Arkansas again…”
The game went back and forth like this for several minutes with Adam playing every position on both teams. After the kids were in bed that night, I told Tom about Adam’s play-by-play commentary on the game inside his head. But I knew it was something he’d have to hear for himself to appreciate. Last weekend, he did. He came in the house, found me at the computer and said, “Adam’s doing it. That sports announcing thing you told me about. It’s hilarious. I’m going back outside to watch.”
But when he got there, he was spotted by the player/announcer who abruptly stopped the game. “Dad,” he said. “You can go back in the house now.” Apparently the game isn’t as good if there are witnesses in the land of make-believe.
“Can’t I watch the game?” Tom asked.
Adam paused for a long moment to consider the request. “Well, you can watch,” he said. “But you have to sit on the bench.”
“Okay,” Tom said. “Who’s winning the game? Arkansas or Missouri?”
In an exasperated tone, Adam said “Daaaad! That game is over already. This is a tournament. Now we’re playing Tennessee.”
But who could blame Dad? A 6-year-old’s imagination moves quicker than North Carolina’s point guard, and updates aren’t available on Sportscenter. The good news is that all of Adam’s teams made it to the Imagination Final Four and we can practically taste the national championship.
The great thing about sports is that when one is winding down to a close, the next is just getting started – a point driven home to me last Saturday on the way to Adam’s soccer game. Tom and I were driving separate cars to the game, and Adam was buckled into the backseat of mine. Nervous that he might be late, Adam began to channel his inner sportscaster:
“Well, Dad’s in pole position and we’re in second place. He’s a turn ahead of us but the light is green and Mom is coming up fast. Watch out for that caution flag. Let’s go racin’ boys!”
Looks like it’s going to be a long, action-packed spring. Game on.
Gwen Rockwood is a regionally syndicated columnist whose work has also appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.