Nicki Gilbert is a writer and country music lover who lives in Piedmont with her husband, four kids and dachshund puppy. Her blog is www.RedBoots.me and she tweets @nixgilbertca. Go Warriors!
“Mom! Mom! Steph Curry scored 20 points in nine minutes! Nine minutes, Mom!”
His small body bounces up and down with all the energy of the ball he holds in his hands. His bright eyes remain glued to the TV. I didn’t know there was a game on, and even though my mind is firmly on the chicken breasts I am grilling for dinner, for a moment I wonder if I am in fact at the Warriors game. The crowd on the screen is going wild and so is my son. Golden State Warriors versus Washington Wizards and Stephen Curry scored 25 points in the first quarter. That is some amazing basketball! No wonder all the excitement.
My mini player bounces the basketball as they break between quarters. He shoots it into the make-believe hoop above the door. It bounces off the wall above the glass. I’m surprised at the force with which he handles the ball. He’s only 6. I’m waiting for him to put a hole in the wall or shatter a window. I know it’s going to happen any day.
This scene is on replay every time the Warriors play, which right now is about three to four times a week. The fans on TV chant “defense, defense” as we eat dinner, and the thwack-thwack of his bouncing ball on the kitchen floor and walls provides a steady background beat. We mostly tune it out. Asking him to stop and join us for dinner is like suggesting he not breathe.
After dinner, a rushed and interrupted affair, all the kids gather on the couch, yelling and cheering at the TV. In between plays, they continue their own game, the little one leading the pack. I put the leftover food in the fridge and peel a few oranges for them to snack on, all the while keeping one eye on the game. Even I groan in disappointment when Klay Thompson misses a shot.
We weren’t always these basketball-obsessed, diehard Warriors fans. Before my youngest was born, we barely watched a game on TV and only occasionally went to live games at Oracle Arena, usually on Jewish Heritage night. Of course, it helps that Oakland’s own Warriors are national champions right now and that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have had an unbelievable season, but it wasn’t until Little Mr. Basketball came along that we started to pay attention.
His absolute passion for the game in general and for the Warriors in particular is contagious. His brown eyes sparkle when he talks about Steph (as if they’re buddies) and Klay. “They call them the Splash Brothers, Mom,” he tells me earnestly, and references East Bay MUD’s commercial in which the two players talk about water conservation. The books he brings home from the school library have titles like “NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors” and he rattles off statistics about Warriors coach Steve Kerr and other players on the team.
An early first-grade reader, somehow he navigates his way through Xfinity’s TV guide and knows when and where the Warriors will be playing next, and we are all right there in front of the TV with him. We share in his elation when they’re winning (almost always) and feel his deep disappointment when they lose (only four times this season so far). While it’s easy to support a team as talented and successful as the Warriors, it is only because of our little guy, because of his interest and excitement, his bright eyes, big smile and love for the sport that we love it too.
The way he engages his siblings, his dad and me in his basketball fever means that we come together at the end of the day, and share in an experience that we all enjoy — something nearly impossible to achieve with everyone’s competing schedules, preferences and desires. Nobody argues over which show to watch or where to sit on the couch, and nobody leaves until the game is over.
My other three kids have all independently checked the Warriors schedule and noted that there is a home game on his seventh birthday in a few months. Each one of them has whispered to me what a wonderful birthday present that would be for their little brother. I have a feeling it will be a night to remember.