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Patrick Frank : A Creative Response to Outdoor Basketball

A Creative Response to Outdoor Basketball

By Patrick Frank

The advent of early spring in South Carolina…I have returned to the town park of Kingstree to shoot around. The sunlight is dazzling, after what seemed like the interminable gray of winter. I have driven my car up next to the court. I leave the door open and play classic rock on the radio.

After the long layoff, I am amazed that my shooting percentage (just shooting around) is good, 60%. I feel centered, with my body and mind in sync.

After a while, I turn the car radio off, so I can be more in touch with my surroundings. There are several hawks circling the baseball field that is adjacent to the court. They glide gracefully and I watch their flight for several minutes.

A black man in ragged clothes is cutting across the park, and he shouts out to me, "Isn't it great outside today!"

There is a slight breeze blowing, and I stop to listen to its sound. Then I return to the game…100 shots, that's my routine.

It's good to be back in the park again, but I miss the chance to play "2l" with someone. No one uses this court except me. But I sense that this park, in this moment, is where I am supposed to be.

I feel liberated — just focusing on the basket and making these simple shots. Thoughts arise from my "ordinary life," anxieties and concerns cross my mind, but mental stress points pass quickly in and out of my consciousness. What I am describing is a mental cleansing process. Through what I regard as an active form of meditation, I seem to detach from ego while moving deeper into the realm of the psyche — simultaneously.

I am thankful I am still able to at least shoot around — with damaged cartilage in my left knee. My mobility is impaired, but having lost some weight I feel no pain as I go through the routine of shooting around.

How long has either competitive or solitary basketball played an integral part in my ongoing pursuit of self-renewal? Well, at least forty years (I am sixty-four now).

Strangely, I rarely played basketball in high school but during my college years I gradually developed some skills. From there, it became my primary vehicle of recreation.

It is OUTDOOR basketball that energizes me. It is nature all around, the music I bring to the court, and the game itself — the coordinated movement, the focus on the basket, the joy of making a tough shot…it is even chasing the ball around, after a shot that has gone astray. It is breathing hard, clearing my lungs, cleansing my mind, taking time for myself, giving myself the gift of healthy detachment for a while.

The only thing is…I wish someone else would show up on this court to play "21." (I can't move around well enough to play in a pick-up game.) I feel confident that somewhere down the road I will have the chance for a little competition. And I feel good that I can still hold my own, at least in terms of outside shooting. It feels good to make outside shots of 15-20 feet, especially from the baseline, fairly consistently. It feels good to still be able to just play the game.

Over time, I have lost interest in WATCHING much pro or college basketball. Primarily, I want to play. I still enjoy watching an occasional Clemson matchup. I love their scrappy play.

When my wife, Linda, and I, move to Asheville, NC, I imagine that there will be more opportunity to shoot around with others. And I know that I will be playing solitary basketball.

The game has always played a big part in unifying my body and mind, as well as keeping me engaged with the world. It is a vehicle of spiritual growth and, ultimately, creative expression in my life. •

© 2009 Patrick Frank

Patrick Frank is a poet-essayist-songwriter from Kingstree, South Carolina. More »

4/6/09