Friday, November 11, 2005

Inside the brain of a teenage boy.

So it was quick, the arc of try-out-and-get-cut for the high school basketball team. I surmise that some or all of the following factors played a role: my son is tall and skinny, but probably not quite tall enough and probably too skinny; the junior varsity and varsity teams are actually all one team, which meant that there were very few spots; the coach cut quite a few kids right off the bat, given what he knew about the kids he already had; the team went to the state championship last year.

All of this I surmise, because when you're sixteen and you're talking to your mom, you control the discourse. Here's how it goes: your sixteen-year-old son calls you at 11:45 a.m. on a day when you're working at home. He's stayed home sick. He wants to know if you want to go to lunch. Sure! You're so ready, at any moment of any day, to go to lunch or anything else with your sixteen-year-old son. You shut down your computer, because you were really just idling anyway, hop in the car, speed over to pick up your son.

He gets in the car and tells you that he's stayed home because he woke up at 4 in the morning, vomiting. Alert! You say, "Are you sure you want to eat?" Then you think, he has basketball tryouts! and he's been sick! So you say, "Are you going to tryouts this afternoon?"

And he says, "I got cut."

It's a reflex when you say, "Are you okay?"

And it's a reflex when he says, "I'm fine."

This is meant to close the conversation about basketball tryouts, with the finality of its fine, but you are a mom, and that means that even though you keep your mouth shut for maybe a whole minute and a half, you have to ask again: "Are you sure you're okay?"

And because he's a sixteen-year-old boy, he must reply, "I'm fine," with even more finality in the fine this time. So this time, you really do keep your mouth shut. Inside your head, though, you're having a whole one-sided conversation full of questions that would make him want to murder you, or at least prefer making a peanut butter sandwich to having lunch with you. How many kids did they cut? How big are the kids they kept? How many of them are seniors? Do you think this means you have no chance next year? Do you want to play rec ball? What about your friends--do you think there are enough of them to make a team? Are you sure you're okay? Are you really sure?

We make it over to Wendy's without further discursive blunders. The beautiful, mysterious brain of my sixteen-year-old son keeps its counsel, enigma control fully engaged. He orders his usual, biggie sized, and we go home to eat it and watch an old episode of the Simpsons, after which he vomits again--not ready to talk, or eat again, either.


  1. I never got cut from a sports team but I always felt awful for those who did. And it's true, once you get cut once then you're out of the pipeline forever unless somebody gets hurt and you walk on or....something...Next year the coach is used to seeing the same guys who already know the offenses, and he's not going to use up a spot on someone who's on the edge...he's going to go with a talented youngster and try and develop them for the future. I can't think of anyone who ever got cut who actually came back and made the team the following year. Either they never tried again or they tried again and got cut again and that was that. That said, it would be a huge accomplishment...maybe he could play AAU ball or just a ton of street ball and come back and impress's certainly possible...

  2. I'm thinking he's gonna see his future in running. Just my hunch.

  3. I burst out laughing on the train when I read your description of your conversation. It seems quite familiar. What does talking about one's failures give one? Can you gain from it? Is one going to say "if I do X then I will get Y". I think he sees your conclusion too--it is pointless to try harder because the coach has a set list of kids he's going to let on the team.

    Ah talk. You know sometimes you don't talk because all you will end up doing is yelling and that's not very fair to the other person who just wants to talk.

  4. Sorry to hear about your son being cut. Let him know that I'm going to be playing on Saturdays at SLCC on a pretty consistent basis. It's pretty fun open gym with a mix of high school kids and twenty something players. I'm usually the old man on the court.



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