Over the past six months I've had the joy of watching my soon to be six year old son fall in love with basketball, so I'd like to thank the YMCA for doing their part in the boy's budding addiction to roundball. I spent some time in the past trying to show him how to dribble and shoot but he didn't show much interest and quickly moved on to doing something else. So when he wanted to play in a YMCA league this winter, I took him to the family gym a few times to make sure it would be worth our time and effort. This time though, I just let him be. We both had a ball to shoot and other older kids were there shooting around so he was able to observe others and start figuring out the game on his own. This was six months ago and on our first trip to the gym, he could not dribble more than a few times and had trouble coordinating his shot (hoist) to get a small ball to an eight foot hoop. By the third visit to the gym, he was making baskets and dribbling the width of the court with no problems. Oh, and he didn't want to leave the gym. From then on he can't play enough basketball, including epic imaginary games in the family room on a toy hoop. No matter where we are, if something resembling a hoop and ball are around, the game is on.
The boy is also interested in watching games on TV, which has been a glorious development for Dad. He's a huge Pacers fan (natch) which I hope brings him great joy someday, but thanks to the YMCA he still has a strong rooting interest in the NBA playoffs. All of the YMCA teams use real NBA nicknames. For the first session, we were the Mavericks and played against the Jazz, Nuggets, and Grizzlies. This session we are the Pistons and play against the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Bobcats. So guess what? I currently have to endure my own flesh and blood rooting fervently for the NBA's Pistons and enjoying their ride through the playoffs. There's no way I'm curtailing his interest at this point so I have to grin and bear my way through the "Go Pistons!" chants. I figure there's plenty of time for reindoctrination in the future, but if he asks for a Rasheed Wallace jersey I may lose it.
Since the Mavs flamed out, he's adopted the familiar name of the Jazz as his Western Conference team, although with the singular/plural noun confusion they are the Jazzes. Like every other NBA fan, the boy loves watching the Golden State-Utah games and has me DVRing the games so he can watch them the next day. In his eyes, "the Golden Warriors vs. the Jazzes" is a fun diversion until the Pistons march through the NBA Finals. So last night out of the blue he asks me when the Golden Warriors and Jazzes play again like he'd just been thinking about the last game. At that point I thought what a bonanza it was for the NBA to have the YMCA using their nicknames, basically marketing the NBA to a new generation of basketball fans/consumers. There's no way the boy is rooting for the Pistons or Jazz without his exposure to the nicknames at the Y. So with the Pacers already in off-season shambles and my boy rooting for the Pistons, I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. One thing I do know is that the NBA should be laughing about this story, all the way to the bank.