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     Volume 7 Issue 31 | August 1, 2008 |

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Writing the Wrong

On Love and Basketball

Sharbari Ahmed

I love basketball. There are very deep mystical reasons I love it. I cannot play it, I mean I can if I tried and have pretty good aim, actually.

One of the most glorious moments of my life was when I was 14 years old and visiting family friends. There were kids there my age but they were all gangly, pimply boys who were awkward and scoffed when, after listening to them tease me for several minutes, I asked to join their game. At that point, I had never seen a game let alone picked a ball up, but they relented, if only to make fun of me.

Much discussion ensued as to which team would get me, and thus be fatally handicapped.

They were all between the ages of 13 and 16 and either Bengali, Indian or Pakistani. I still remember what the court looked like. The asphalt was old and cracked; grass and weeds grew in the cracks. The paint on the backboard of the basket was peeling away, and the net itself was tattered. It was a neglected space.

Finally, it was decided that I could only join the game if I managed, within three tries to sink a basket from the three-point mark. They showed me where the three-point mark was.

“It's like a million miles away,” I protested.

“It's the same distance from where Magic Johnson sunk the winning basket in the blah blah championship against the so and so,” someone said, I suppose to prove that my bellyaching was irrational.

“Okay, but I get three tries, right? I mean I might not get it in the first try.”

There was some snorting, and one of the acned adolescents (who I am sure grew into a dashing prince among men), said, “Oh you definitely will not get it in.”

“Hold the ball like this,” one of the older, slightly more gentlemanly boys said and showed me how to hold and shoot the ball so it would make a high arc, ostensibly guiding it perfectly into the tattered basket.

I bounced the ball three times, without thinking, and then held it up like the older boy had showed me. I hesitated for a split second and then threw the ball. Everyone watched -- my God how I wished humans came with a slow motion button so we could really relish the better moments of our lives -- as the ball made a perfect high arc and went, seamlessly, I might add, without touching the rim (okay I might be exaggerating but this is my NBA championship moment) into the basket.

A stunned silence fell over the boys, as they all looked at me, grinning smugly at them, my hands on my hips.

“She's on my team,” the older boy said without missing a beat, into the silence.

It turned out that I was not a bad player. Of course the boys, now very, very impressed with me took it easy on me. The opposing team sometimes just handed me the ball (by gently fouling me) to see if I could sink another basket, which I did, from the free throw line! I never did get another three pointer.

How did it happen so perfectly that first time though? I think it was of course just luck and the simple reason that I had no expectations, really. I was given a ball, told basically how to shoot it and I did, with great success. I find that sometimes over thinking what one is uncertain about or fearful of will inevitably trip one up and rob them of something glorious and rare. Whenever I get a bit too cerebral I do try and remember that moment.

So imagine my surprise, when, Mr. Barack Obama, while visiting American troops in Kuwait was handed a ball and asked to show what he could do -- from the three- point line -- within three tries.

“I might not make the first one,” he said, smiling, very Presidentially, at the crowd. He bounced the ball I think fives times, shot it and it, of course went in, seamlessly.

Did I make my characteristic leap in logic that somehow this meant that my candidate and I are mystically connected? You bet your sweet Magic Johnson I did!

Many people, I think decided, right then and there, that he was on their team. Mr. Obama that is. Not Magic.

This, yet another street credit adding moment to Obama's roster, was during a carefully orchestrated trip to the Middle East, which I dreaded and refused to watch. I knew what a presidential candidate's trip to the Middle East means. It means let's make nice with Israel and just grudgingly meet with Arab leaders. It means the candidate will wear yarmulkes and lay a wreath at the Holocaust memorial. Incidentally is there even a memorial at the site of the Sabra and Shatila massacres? It means that they will visit the Wailing Wall and look pensive. It means that somehow a member of the candidate's team will wear too Islamic a green shirt or tie and be told to take it off at once since it offends delicate Israeli sensibilities. You see, I love, but I love with objectivity. Three pointers notwithstanding.

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