Watching my nephew open his birthday presents yesterday, I noticed one stood out to me far more than all the others, a basketball. It was nothing fancy, a red and white rubber Wilson, but it was perfect for playing on the asphalt surface of the park courts across the road from his house. Innately, I felt the urge to hold the ball, grip it, spin it in my hands, maybe even toss a chest pass or two with him, and it wasn’t because I was dying to shoot some hoops either.
There is a force which attracts the eyes, the heart, and the soul to a new ball. It is something that I hadn’t realized until a moment of pure, Zen-like clarity at a kid’s birthday party. Maybe you hadn’t realized it either, but I would almost bet that you’re now running through the pantheon of your own existence and recalling all those moments when a new ball made its way into your life.
Strange, isn’t it? I bet you can remember, though, that feel of the rubber of a Wilson or a Spalding when you first laid hands on it. The newness of it all…but more, the hope it brings, the unending possibilities of it all. A shot has never been missed with it, a dribble never taken, the pavement never dug deep into its pores. Perfect. Clean, Pure.
A new ball–whether it be a basketball, softball, golf ball, whatever–represents what we could be, that brief moment in time before the world swoops in and we, floating gracefully through the air towards nylonious bliss, clank the backrim or plop into a green-side pond. No misses, no pop ups, no shanks: the ball (and we) are at one with the harmony of all the world for those few fleeting moments. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
The story of the red and white Wilson ends here for me. I’m sure it will tickle the nets of the playground hoops many, many times. Equally, I am sure it will careen off course into bushes, mud, parked cars. Either way, I choose to remember it as it was before reality set in and disallowed its flawlessness, when it was a dream in a kid’s heart and a pristine hope in his hands.