By R.K. Krochmal
Humor is merely tragedy standing on its head with its pants torn.
~Irvin S. Cobb
~Irvin S. Cobb
"Let's go, Rob," Mom screamed up the stairs. "We're going to be late."
"We don't have time for this," my older brother, Lee, yelled.
I rolled my eyes. I could picture Lee standing at the bottom of the stairs, tapping his foot and looking at his watch. He was never late.
"I'll be right down," I yelled. But that probably wasn't true. I couldn't find my basketball shorts.
Someone stomped up the stairs. My door opened and Lee stepped inside. He looked around with disgust at the mess I call a room. "What's the problem?" he asked.
"I can't find my shorts."
"We don't have time to look for them," he said. "Just borrow my extra ones."
"They'll be too big." But he was already getting them from his room.
I shrugged. It's not like it mattered. Coach wasn't going to let me play no matter how much I practiced at home. Lee was the star player and I was the bench warmer. That's just how it was. I put on the shorts and hurried downstairs.
The rest of the team was already on the court doing warm-ups when we got there. Coach was tapping his foot and looking at his watch. He looked like an older version of Lee.
"It's Rob's fault," Lee said as he hurried to join the others on the court. Coach glared at me as I took my seat on the bench.
The first half of the game went like it usually did. Lee scored basket after basket and racked up point after point. We were beating the pants off the other team.
The second half started and that's when things started to go wrong. Sam, one of our best players, missed an easy basket. Lee had the ball stolen from him. The other team was starting to catch up.
Then Lee tripped and fell hard. He didn't jump back up. The players and coaches gathered around. When the group parted, Coach helped Lee to the bench. He wasn't putting any weight on his right foot.
"Are you okay?" I asked him.
"Yeah," Lee answered. "Just twisted my ankle."
Coach looked around, searching the crowd. He sighed. "Okay, Rob," he said. "You're the only other player we have. Take Lee's place."
My heart raced. I couldn't take Lee's place. The only reason I was on the team was the Parks and Recreation Department said Coach had to let anyone join. I'd never played in a real game before.
"Go on, Rob," Coach pointed. "Get out there."
I swallowed hard and stepped onto the court. "Please don't let me mess up," I thought. I followed as my team ran from one side of the court to the other.
The other team scored a few more baskets. The score was tied and there were only a few more minutes left in the game. The other team had the ball and their best player was running toward me. He lost control of it right in front of me.
"Get it, Rob!" Lee screamed from the bench.
I grabbed it. I looked for someone to pass it to. No one was close enough.
"Try for the basket!" Lee yelled.
I ran down the court, concentrating on my dribble. I didn't want to mess up. This was my chance to show Coach I really had been practicing. The other team tried to block me. I weaved one way and then the other, not really sure what I was doing. Avoiding blocks wasn't something I could practice by myself.
Suddenly, I was under the basket. If I could make the shot, we'd win the game. I closed my eyes and imagined I was practicing in my driveway. No crowd, no other team... just me and the hoop. I jumped and released the ball.
"Please make it," I said. "Please make it."
Swish! The crowd cheered. I'd done it. I'd won the game. Then I heard the laughter. Just a few chuckles at first but soon everyone was laughing. I looked around. What was so funny?
They were all looking at me. I looked down. My borrowed shorts were around my ankles. My face turned red as I scrambled to pull them up. My team gathered around me, blocking out the laughing crowd, as they congratulated me. Even Lee limped onto the court.
"Good job, little bro," he said. "You won the game. That's all that matters."
He was right, I did win the game. But more important, I proved I could do it. If I wanted something bad enough, all I had to do was practice. I just wish I could have done it with my pants on.