Winner

I admire talented people.  I especially admire talented people who are good, which brings me to my dear friend Jerry Spinelli.  I’ve never met the man.  I’m not intimately familiar with the details of his biography, but I feel like I know him.  Of course, I know him.  I’ve read his books.  I can therefore attest that Mr. Spinelli is both a gentleman and a poet.

I was well into my twenties, somewhere on the verge of law school, when I discovered his writings.  My mother was a junior high school librarian at the time.  She sent me a copy of Mr. Spinelli’s Newbery Medal winner, Maniac Magee.  Even though the typical Jerry Spinelli reader is probably ten years old, my then soon-to-be lawyer self was charmed by the book.  That should tell you something about my maturity level, both then and now.

Mr. Spinelli writes about nice people.  He mostly writes about happy, functional families.  His stories are gentle.  I know what you’re asking yourself.  What’s the fun in that?  How do you squeeze any drama out of something so mundane?  I might wonder the same thing too if I hadn’t experienced his books for myself.  Let me assure you the conflict is real.  His characters are usually kind-hearted people who need to grow.  They have something to learn.  That, as it turns out, is a marvelous recipe for a story.

The Spinelli book that’s stuck with me most all these years, the one I want to tell you about right now, is a little novel called Loser.  It’s a book about a kid named Donald Zinkoff who doesn’t quite fit in.  He wears a giraffe hat on the first day of school, for crying out loud.  He’s goofy.  He misinterprets social cues.  He’s not fast, athletic, or cool.  Instead, he’s good, and over the course of the book Donald Zinkoff learns to face his fears – and ultimately refuses to let the world label or define him.  I like that.  The message resonates with me in a way few books have.

The last eight pages of Loser might just be some of the finest prose I’ve ever read.  No matter how many times I revisit it, that last chapter always gives me goosebumps.  It makes me want to cry and cheer all at the same time.

I wrote a letter to Mr. Spinelli once.  I told him Loser is one of my favorite books of any make, model, shape, or size.  A few weeks later, I got a note back from him.  He said it’s one of his favorites too.

I finished reading Loser to my kids last week.  I hope they were listening.  I hope they understood what Mr. Spinelli was trying to tell them.  I hope they felt the beauty of his words because they were coming from a place of goodness, and the world right now could sure use more of that.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and his six young children.  He has a B.A. in print journalism from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie.  He also spent two years in the Dominican Republic without a pillow, but that’s a story for a different day.


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Bless This Mess

While surfing Twitter not long ago, a couple idle thoughts rattled around in my thick skull:  1.  I vehemently disagree with at least half of what’s out there.  2.  I’m offended beyond belief by the other half.  Yes, the social media universe is generally a steaming pile of stuff, so there’s that …

In case you haven’t noticed before now, I like words.  As a college sophomore, I decided words were my calling and declared a major in communications – print journalism, to be exact.  I wanted to chase stories.  I wanted to put myself out there on the written page, and that’s what I did.  I don’t know if I can fully describe to you the thrill of waking up each morning to see my own words in print, scattered to the four winds of campus.  Who cares if my stories were about such truly consequential issues as car-less dating or weather patterns over the Utah Valley?  They were my stories, and it was fun while it lasted.

Then I went to law school.  Talk about a buzzkill.  Well, law school can take the journalist out of the newsroom, but it can’t take the newsroom out the journalist.  Even after all these years, I still feel the itch.  I still yearn to put my words out there.  Then along comes social media, promising likes and an audience, and the allure is too great for me to resist.

Suddenly, I have a megaphone again, but you know what?  Everybody else does too, and it’s tempting to think that therein lies the problem.  As Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain or Larry the Cable Guy once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to tweet it out and remove all doubt.”

More than simple ignorance, however, the paranoia and anger take it to a whole different level.  I shudder to think how much online content consists of (at worst) outright lies or (at best) gross distortions of the truth that serve no other purpose than to incite you to anger toward Democrats, Republicans, protesters, police, the media, Fred Rogers, puppies, the Wiggles, and your own grandmother, to name a few.  What a shame.  We’re so much better than that.  At least we should be.

But as I surveyed the wreckage of the Twitter-verse, I had another thought too.  Somehow the desolation is beautiful in a way.  I’m glad you get to be wrong.  (The failing is one I will never know, of course.)  I’m delighted you get to offend because speech is messy.  Freedom is messy.  Life is messy.

I just wish more of us were actually listening to one another.  I wish more of us were trying to understand.  Because I think to myself what a wonderful (virtual) world that would be.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and his six young children.  He has a B.A. in print journalism from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law.  Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie.  He also spent two years in the Dominican Republic without a pillow, but that’s a story for a different day.


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The Best Gift

The first week of first grade was a rough one for me.  I cried all the way to school that week.  Every single day.  Yeah, it wasn’t pretty, but, hey, for a six year old, seven straight hours at school, away from home, away from your mom, is an excruciatingly long time.

In law school, where incidentally most school days last longer than seven hours, my Civil Clinic partner was a Marine.  A real tough guy.  I liked him, but he was not someone you wanted to mess with.  And one day my tough-guy Marine Civil Clinic partner said something I’ll never forget.  He said, “My mom staying home with me when I was a kid was the best gift anyone ever gave me.”

That statement struck me for two reasons.  First, I was semi-shell shocked to hear someone, especially a tough-guy Marine, make a pronouncement like that as unabashedly, unapologetically, and matter-of-factly as he did.  Secondly, as much as I’m ashamed to admit it, up until that moment I’d never acknowledged to myself the full magnitude of what my own mother had done for me.

My mom staying home with me when I was a kid was the best gift anyone ever gave me.  And it was.  I don’t mean to sound preachy or judgmental.  I’m not trying to lay on the guilt or give anyone a complex.  Everyone’s situation is different.  I’m just everlastingly grateful for a mother who made that sacrifice, who was waiting there at the end of those long school days.  For me.  And for my three siblings.

My mother is witty and smart and graceful.  She writes poetry like Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson or Ted Kooser — or maybe all three of them wrapped up in one.  She could have done a lot of things.  She could have been a lot of things.  But the thing she wanted more than anything else was to raise a family, and so, for her, that college degree waited until I was out of the house and well on my way in the world.

Mom was there to cook our meals and do our laundry and, when occasion dictated, clean up our vomit.  Mom was there to hand out popsicles in the summertime.  Mom was there to read us books.  (A Wrinkle in Time is still a personal favorite, less because of the actual story and more because of who first introduced me to it.)  Mom was there at bedtime to tell us stories — usually stories about dogs from her own childhood.  (Man, we loved those dog stories.)  Mom was there for lots of things, for everything.

I’m not sure how you repay a gift like that.  I don’t suppose you can, so let me just say Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and thank you.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six young children.  Chris enjoys stories by Ray Bradbury, starry night skies, and cherry limeade.  He has also watched every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation more than once.  Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.


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One Impossible Thing

“One impossible thing at a time.”

–Admiral Jean-Luc Picard


I’ve put my social distancing time to good use and recently finished watching the first season of Star Trek: Picard, so I now present to you a (relatively) spoiler-free review.  Here are five winners and five losers from Season One:

LOSERS

  • Family Viewing: Star Trek: The Next Generation is my favorite television show ever. Not only did the characters and the stories capture my boyhood imagination, but TNG was also a show I watched with my family.  In the lead-up to Picard, I had a great time showing my kids a bunch of old Next Generation episodes to get them up to speed because I was hoping to watch the new show with them too.  No such luck.  I’m not sure how Trek expects to cultivate another generation of fans when most of its new offerings are rated MA.  I watched Picard using VidAngel filters to screen out objectionable content I didn’t want to see or hear, but even with the filters, it’s not hard to read lips when the head of Starfleet yells a big fat no-no word at Jean-Luc, and many of the situations presented in the series are downright dark and gritty.  Filters or no, this is not a show I would want my young children to see.
  • Utopia: And speaking of Picard not being a kids’ show, there are an awful lot of messed up human beings here for what is supposed to be a utopian society. In fact, pretty much every member of Picard’s new crew is really messed up.  The show deals with such happy topics as poverty, prejudice, addiction, PTSD, and suicide.  All of this may make for interesting storytelling that at least one of the show’s writers argues is actually meant to accentuate the light, but it’s hard not to pine for the bright and shining future that Star Trek used to represent.
  • Seven of Nine: Picard succeeds as a series (so far, at least) in large part because it holds its titular hero in such high esteem. Seven of Nine, on the other hand, not so much.  Voyager was never my favorite Trek show, but this version of Seven is a far cry from the one we watched in the ‘90s.  Now she’s a bitter, cynical, vengeful killing machine, and while the writers have given us some gruesome back story to set this all up, if I cared about Seven as a character the way I care about Picard as a character, then I’d be really ticked off.
  • The Criminal Justice System: An otherwise likable member of Picard’s new crew shockingly murders someone partway through the season. There are extenuating circumstances, sure, but by the end, the heinous crime is inexplicably forgiven or forgotten.  I’m all for character redemption, but this was a bit much for the prosecutor in me to swallow.
  • Jean-Luc Picard: The poor guy has been through the wringer. During his TNG days, he got assimilated by the Borg, tortured by the Cardassians, and zapped by an alien probe that forced him to live an entire lifetime in fifteen minutes.  Well, he doesn’t exactly get much respite from the trauma in his old age, but, hey, he’s Jean-Luc Picard.

WINNERS

  • Picard’s Romulan Servants: When we first drop in on Jean-Luc, he’s a grumpy old codger who has retired to the family vineyard in France, and it’s there that we’re introduced to the best new characters of the entire show. Picard now employs a couple of reformed Romulan assassins to oversee things on his chateau, and these two are warm, funny, and full of surprises.  Sadly, we don’t see them after Episode Three, but as far as I’m concerned, they should have their own series.
  • Good Storytelling (Mostly): Somehow amidst all the death, darkness, and destruction in Picard, there is some truly beautiful storytelling going on. In my mind, one of the greatest achievements of this show is how the writers create a real sense that time has passed.  Picard is still Picard, yes, but he has in no way been living in a vacuum.  He’s changed by his experience since we last saw him, and he’s on a very personal journey.  In fact, most of the primary players in Picard are given interesting and emotional arcs.  (If I have one complaint about the show’s story structure, however, it would be that the last couple of episodes seemed to discard what had been the show’s careful deliberateness in exchange for some fairly hasty resolution.)
  • Will Riker and Family: While I love the entire Next Generation cast, let’s face it: TNG was basically a show about Picard and Data.  (That probably has something to do with the fact the combined acting talent of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner exceeds that of the rest of their fellow cast-mates several times over.)  Unsurprisingly then, the first season of the new show very much focuses on the Picard/Data relationship, but what is surprising is that Will Riker pretty much steals the show every time he’s onscreen.  Episode Seven, much of which takes place on the planet where Riker and Troi have settled, is easily my favorite part of Season One and maybe one of the best Trek episodes ever.
  • Star Trek: Nemesis: Up to now, Nemesis was the last time we got to see Picard and his TNG buddies. The trouble is the movie is almost universally loathed.  While I personally don’t think Nemesis is quite as bad most fans make it out to be, Data’s death (hey, it’s not a spoiler if it happened close to twenty years ago) didn’t resonate the way it should have.  Honestly, the end of Nemesis felt in so many ways like a cheap Wrath of Khan knock-off, and this is a problem the producers of Picard seemed bent on fixing.  In large part, they succeeded, which somehow now renders Nemesis a lot more palatable.  Eighteen years on, Picard, Data, and the fans finally get the emotional payoff they deserve.
  • Jean-Luc Picard: Jean-Luc Picard still carries all the compassion and conviction of the Jean-Luc Picard we know and love. He’s just suffering from a crisis of confidence, and it’s a joy to watch him work through that over the course of ten episodes.  There are some extraordinarily moving scenes in this show, and Jean-Luc is right there in the middle of most of them.

So, overall, I liked it, I really did.  Just don’t watch Star Trek: Picard without the VidAngel filters set to stun.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six young children.  Chris enjoys stories by Ray Bradbury, starry night skies, and cherry limeade.  He has also watched every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation more than once.  Chris is the author of Red: A Football Novel.


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March Sadness

Feeling empty without the madness?  Console yourself by reading my semi-autobiographical children’s story about learning to love the game.


THE OCEAN

by Christopher D. Seifert

Jordan Spitznoggle loved the ocean.  At least, he thought he loved the ocean.  Jordan had never actually been to the ocean, but he was certain it was a marvelous place.

Whenever Jordan returned home from a long, hard day at Kickapoo Elementary School, he gave his mother a kiss, dropped his backpack in his bedroom, and tucked Max, his long-time Teddy Bear and confidant, under his arm.

Then Jordan set off for the deck behind the house and was instantly transformed into Captain Jordan Three-Beard, the most feared pirate to sail the 87 Seas.

Max was his first mate.

High atop the poop deck of the good ship Jolly Rancher, Captain Jordan Three-Beard surveyed the ocean.  Silvery fish darted through the glittery waves and seagulls bounced across the deep blue sky.  Captain Three-Beard could practically taste the salty, salty sea.

While other boys played football or marbles, Captain Three-Beard chased mermaids and treasure or swashbuckled with swashbucklers.

“Look alive there!” he said to Max.

One afternoon, Bo Bohoravich, Captain Three-Beard’s classmate at Kickapoo Elementary School and neighbor from across the street, knocked on the Spitznoggles’ front door.  Mrs. Spitznoggle answered.

“Can Jordan play?” Bo asked.

“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Spitznoggle said, “but Captain Three-Beard is out to sea.”

“Figures,” Bo bemoaned.  He turned and glumly dribbled his basketball – thump, thump, thump – down the walkway, across the street, and back to his own house.

“I’ve been thinking,” Mrs. Spitznoggle said at dinnertime that evening.

“Watch out!” Mr. Spitznoggle exclaimed.

“I believe,” Mrs. Spitznoggle continued, “that it is time for Captain Three-Beard to broaden his horizons.  Jordan, you should invite Bo Bohoravich over to play marbles.”

“The ocean is a lonely place,” Jordan replied, which was his way of telling his mother he did not like her suggestion.  Besides, he thought, the line where ocean meets sky is quite broad enough.

The next day at school, all of the students, including Jordan Spitznoggle and Bo Bohoravich, were invited to the gymnasium where a large, red-faced man was waiting.

“Hello,” said the red-faced man to the students.  “My name is Commissioner Jim Gordon from the Kickapoo Athletic Association.  Do you know why I am here, boys and girls?  I did not think so,” Commissioner Gordon said before any of the students could respond to his question.  “I am here to teach you about the benefits of exercise, the joy of sportsmanship, and the thrill of victory.  Mostly, I am here to solicit entry fees for the Kickapoo Youth Basketball League.”

Jordan’s classmates clapped and cheered.  They whooped and hollered.

Jordan did not understand his classmates’ enthusiasm, but he wanted to.  That is why he summoned a fake smile and clapped and cheered as well.

That night at dinner, Jordan cleared his throat.

“Mom?” he said.

“Yes, dear,” his mother answered.

“I’ve decided,” he said, “it is time for me to broaden my horizons.  I would like to join the Kickapoo Youth Basketball League.”

“That’s wonderful,” his mother said with eyebrows raised.

“That’s my boy,” his father said before writing Jordan a check to cover his league entry fee.

The day of the first practice soon arrived.  Jordan’s father parked the family car in front of the Kickapoo Community Building.

“Good luck,” said Jordan’s mother.

“Knock ‘em dead,” said Jordan’s father.

Jordan climbed out of the car, stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jean shorts, and walked through the front doors of the Kickapoo Community Building, not certain what to expect.

The Kickapoo Community Building was enormous with tall windows to the outside.  Voices and sneaker sounds echoed back and forth between the walls.

At the center of the gym, nine boys, including Bo Bohoravich, stood crowded around Commissioner Jim Gordon, who wore a whistle about his neck and clutched a clipboard in his hand.

Commissioner Gordon’s red face grew redder and he glared at Jordan.  “You,” he said to Jordan, “must be young Mr. Spitznoggle.”

“Yes,” Jordan peeped while looking down at his long legs and knobby knees and high-top shoes.

“You are tall,” Commissioner Gordon observed.  “But you are also late.  I am your coach, and no one belonging to my team arrives late to practice.  Now,” Coach Gordon continued, “as I was saying before I was interrupted by young Mr. Spitznoggle, I am a highly skilled athletic trainer.  Listen to me, and I will teach you the most thrilling aspect of athletic competition:  Imposing the agony of defeat on others at all costs.  So, with that in mind, the time has arrived for lay-up drills.”

Jordan did not know what a lay-up was.  Likewise, he did not know the meaning of many other terms such as jump shot, free throw, backboard, bounce pass, or crossover dribble.

Needless to say, practice did not go well for Jordan. … And Coach Gordon’s harsh voice echoed throughout the Kickapoo Community Building.

At the end of practice, the team gathered at midcourt.  “The first game is Saturday at 9 a.m.,” Coach Gordon said as he handed out ten red jerseys.  “But before then we must choose a name for our team.”

“We should be the Pirates!” Jordan suggested excitedly, but his teammates ignored him.  Instead, they decided to call themselves the Bug Eaters.

On the morning of the big game, Jordan sat on the bench and watched his teammates compete against a squad with black jerseys that called themselves the Killer Whales.  (‘What a great name,’ Jordan thought to himself.)

The two teams took turns scoring.  Bo Bohoravich made a three-pointer.  The Killer Whales’ Luke Lewandowski made two free throws.

At halftime, the score was tied at 12 to 12.  “This is horrible!” Coach Gordon yelled.  “We must not lose!”

The second half started, but Jordan remained on the bench.  With two minutes left in the game and the score still tied, one of the referees marched up to Coach Gordon.

“This young man has not yet played,” the referee said, motioning to Jordan.

“Is that so?”  Coach Gordon feigned surprise.

“Yes,” the referee said, “and you know the rules.”  Coach Gordon scowled and looked down the bench.

“Spitznoggle!” he barked.  “You’re in for Furtwangler!”

Jordan smiled and jumped up.  His parents cheered from the bleachers behind him.  Jordan raced onto the floor.

“No!” Coach Gordon shouted.  “You must check in at the scorers’ table first!”

Jordan checked in and play resumed.  Bo Bohoravich made another three-pointer.  The Killer Whales scored too.  The clock ticked down.  10 … 9 … 8 … Jordan noticed his shoelaces were untied. … 7 … 6 … He bent over and reached for the laces. … 5 … 4 … The ball rolled between Jordan’s legs as he stood just beneath the basket. … 3 … 2 … “Pick it up, pick it up!” Coach Gordon screamed. … 1 … The ball rolled right on out of bounds as the final horn sounded.

“Bug Eaters 25, Killer Whales 25,” the scoreboard read.

“We tied!   We tied!” Jordan cried while jumping up and down.  He wondered why the teams were lining up again at midcourt if the game was over.

“Spitznoggle!” Coach Gordon hissed.  “Off the court.  Overtime is about to start.  Do you want us to get a technical?”

During the overtime period, Jordan stayed on the bench.  Bo Bohoravich missed all of his shots.  The Killer Whales made all of theirs and later toted Luke Lewandowski off the court when they won the game.  Coach Gordon broke a clipboard over his knee.

“Next week’s practice starts early,” he said.  He looked at Jordan.  “And you all had better arrive on time.”

The next practice did start early, and Jordan did not arrive late.  But even so the Bug Eaters lost the following game too.  And the next one.  And the next one after that.  And so on and so forth.

Jordan played very little, and when he did, Coach Gordon’s face was even redder than usual.

One day, Mr. Spitznoggle opened the back door of the Spitznoggle home to find his son standing on the deck of the good ship Jolly Rancher with Max tucked under his arm.

“Permission to come aboard?” Mr. Spitznoggle asked.

“Permission granted,” Jordan muttered, without taking his eyes off the horizon.  Mr. Spitznoggle stepped onto the deck.

“Would you and mom be upset,” Jordan asked his father after a few moments had passed, “if I stopped playing basketball?  I don’t think Coach Gordon would mind.  Really.”

“How many games are left?” Mr. Spitznoggle asked.

“One,” Jordan answered.  Mr. Spitznoggle thought about this.

Finally, he said, “You don’t have to play basketball next year if you don’t want to, but right now why don’t you finish what you started, huh?”  Jordan nodded and watched the ocean waves crest and fall.

The season’s final practice soon arrived.  The team ran lay-up drills for the final time.  Then Coach Gordon shouted “Spitznoggle!” and Jordan trudged toward his coach without taking his eyes off the gym floor.

“Basketball is a game of skill,” Coach Gordon said to Jordan as the rest of the team continued with lay-up drills. “You have no skill.  You are hopeless.  But I – I am magnanimous.  Do you know what magnanimous means?”  Jordan shook his head to indicate he did not.  “Magnanimous,” Coach Gordon said, “means I am kind beyond all understanding.  It means I visit the fatherless and widows, the sick and the afflicted.  It means I teach basketball to hopeless children like you.”

And then Coach Gordon did something that in a million years Jordan would not have expected:  He taught young Mr. Spitznoggle the proper technique for shooting a basketball.

“Balance the ball on your fingertips like so,” Coach Gordon said while demonstrating.  “Raise your arm like an elevator.  Use your off hand to aim, and flick your wrist.”  The basketball flicked away from Coach Gordon’s fingertips and clanged loudly against the rim.  “Now you try,” Coach Gordon said as he ushered Jordan to the free throw line.  “You must look at the basket and think, ‘The basket is as wide and as broad and as deep as the ocean.’”

Jordan worked by himself the rest of the practice.  He did not make a single basket.  Oftentimes, he missed the hoop altogether, but he repeated to himself over and over again, “The ocean … the ocean …”

The next day after school, Jordan nailed a sign to the deck behind the house.  “Captain Three-Beard,” the sign said, “is away on shore leave.  Sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Then Jordan walked across the street to Bo Bohoravich’s house.  He knocked on the front door and waited until Bo’s mother answered.  She looked surprised to see him.

“May Bo come out to play?” Jordan asked.

“I’m sorry,” Bo’s mother said, “but Bo is not feeling well.  Perhaps another day.”  Jordan kicked at the pavement.  “Is there something else I can do for you?” Bo’s mother asked him.

“I was just wondering,” Jordan said, “if I might borrow a basketball and shoot hoops in your driveway.”

Again, Mrs. Bohoravich looked surprised, but then she said, “Go right ahead.”

“Thanks!” Jordan said and bounded away.  He found Bo’s basketball in the flower bed in front of the house.

Then he took up a spot at the end of the Bohoravich’s driveway and did just as Coach Gordon had taught him:  Raise, aim, flick—raise, aim, flick—raise, aim, flick.

Jordan practiced until late into the evening when the only light came from streetlamps.  “Like the ocean,” he whispered to himself over and over again, “like the ocean …”

Jordan practiced in the Bohoravich’s driveway every night that week while the good ship Jolly Rancher stayed anchored in the Spitznoggle’s back yard.

The day of the final game soon arrived.  The Bug Eaters – minus Bo Bohoravich, who was still at home with the flu – were matched against the unbeaten Rattlesnakes.

Jordan and the Bug Eaters huddled up before tipoff, and Coach Gordon offered his final pregame pep talk:  “There will be no postseason for us,” he said.  “We are going to lose this morning, but please, please, please do your best to minimize the embarrassment.  Break.”

The starters took the floor, and the game began.  Jordan remained on the bench, and the Bug Eaters trailed 30-15 at the half.

During halftime, one of the referees approached Coach Gordon.  “Let the Spitznoggle kid play the whole second half,” the referee told Coach Gordon.

“Are you kidding?” Coach Gordon exclaimed.  “But the rules say—”

“I don’t care what the rules say,” the referee interrupted.  “It’s the last game of the year.  You aren’t going to win anyway, so let the kid play.”

Coach Gordon threw up his hands.  “Spitznoggle!” he cried.  “You’re in for the second half.”  Jordan beamed.

“Like the ocean!” he said.

“What?” Coach Gordon asked.

“Nothing,” Jordan said with a smile.

Five minutes into the second half, a Bug Eaters shot rimmed away and the ball bounced out near the free throw line where Jordan was standing.  Jordan licked his lips and grasped the ball.  Coach Gordon groaned and covered his eyes.

“Like the ocean,” Jordan said.

The ball flew away from Jordan’s fingers, arced high through the Kickapoo Community Building, and swished through the net.  The crowd went wild.

Later, the ball came to Jordan as he stood outside the three-point line.

“Like the ocean,” Jordan repeated, and the ball went up, came down, rattled in the cylinder, and slipped through the net.

After Jordan made two more shots, his astonished teammates decided to feed the hot hand.  Pass after pass came Jordan’s way and shot after shot swished through the net.

Soon, the Rattlesnakes were throwing double- and triple-teams at Jordan, but it did not matter.  Jordan single-handedly erased the Rattlesnakes’ lead.  He made hook shots and jump shots and twirling no-look shots.  Jordan Spitznoggle could not miss.

With thirty seconds left in the game, the score was tied, and the Rattlesnakes had the ball.  The Rattlesnakes passed the ball around the three-point line as the seconds ticked away.  Finally, the Rattlesnakes’ Dale Demitrov fired a shot.  The ball rolled off the rim and landed in Jordan’s hands.

Jordan took one dribble up the court, then two.

“Shoot!  Shoot!” Coach Gordon shrieked from the bench.  So, Jordan heaved the ball from the opposite free throw line and watched the orange sphere sail up near the rafters before it came down, hit the front of the rim, bounced high, and fell straight through the cylinder just as the horn sounded.

Jordan’s teammates rushed the court and carried him on their shoulders.  Coach Gordon vacillated between tears and hysterical laughter.

In the commotion, someone heard him say, “After all, I am a highly skilled athletic trainer.”

Later, Jordan’s dad gave him a high five, and his parents took him out for ice cream.

The next day, Jordan’s mother found him on the deck behind the house.

“Permission to come aboard, Captain Three-Beard?”

“Granted,” Jordan said.

“Your father and I have decided we should take a family vacation this summer,” Mrs. Spitznoggle said.

“That’s great,” Jordan said as he scanned the distant horizon.  “Where to?”  Mrs. Spitznoggle only smiled.

Five months later, Captain Jordan Three-Beard found himself standing on the deck of a giant cruise ship.  His mother was at his right, his father on his left.  Max was under one arm, his basketball under the other.

Jordan leaned against the railing, and the wind whipped through his hair.

“Water as far as the eye can see,” Mrs. Spitznoggle observed.  “Isn’t it marvelous?”

Jordan did not respond, but he did hand Max to his mother.  Then he stepped away from the railing, turned around, closed his eyes, and chucked the basketball up behind him and over his head.  The orange globe was lost somewhere in the sun before it plummeted down.  And do you know what happened?

It went in.

 

Christopher D. Seifert © 2011


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, his wife, Sara, and their six young children.  He enjoys stories by Ray Bradbury, starry night skies, and cherry limeade.  He is also the author of Red: A Football Novel, available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.

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