“Common Ground” column for March 29, 2013

BY CHANTE WARREN

My husband spent the last couple of weeks increasing his workouts on the treadmill, workout bench and in the driveway shooting hoops with his two sons.

He wanted to get in top shape for a basketball tournament with his middle-age contemporaries and neighbors — some with receding hairlines, graying beards and others whose cheering grandchildren sat in the stands.

There was a good cause involved. Game tickets raised money for the American Cancer Society.

On tournament day, the players gathered at a neighborhood basketball court, took on assumed nicknames and offered each other high fives. The DJ boosted his turntable volume and churned out a Kurtis Blow favorite, “They’re Playing Basketball.”

My husband, under his assumed nickname, “Triple X,” headed for the court, all suited up in his neon yellow jersey, blue and white striped nylon shorts, knee-high white socks, and blue knee pads.

His opposing teammate, Stanley Washington, or “Stan the Man,” is a cancer survivor and a member of the North Iberville Cancer Fighters. Washington’s co-organizer for Saturday’s tournament, Elvin Augustus, another teammate, is also a champion for the cause. His mother-in-law and father-in-law each died of cancer. My husband, sensitive himself to the cause, is one of his mother’s biggest cheerleaders. She was diagnosed with leukemia in late 2011.

It’s fortunate this tournament was not just about the game. The halftime score was dismal, 0 to 1. Nevertheless, players from each team trotted up and down the field with hustle and passion, whether they missed the majority of their shots or hogged the ball.

My husband put that single point on the board thanks to his free throw shot.

I knew it was maybe far fetched to dream too big, but I wondered if he might follow the half with a mighty comeback — fly down the court and do a Michael Jordan slam dunk or one of those Magic Johnson no look passes.

Or maybe, he’d pull off one of those Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sky hook plays he used in his junior high basketball playing days.

None of those fancy plays came to pass, and I’m grateful.

I’d gone to great lengths in the days preceding the game encouraging him to play it safe and to not show off. He listened. He stretched daily, and he wore his knee pads and a pair of bike tights with his shorts.

I’d learned my lesson 12 years earlier when he’d signed up for one of those men’s flag football teams.

Underneath bright, white lights at Independence Park on game night, he played, tumbled and rolled. Hours following the game, he woke up in the middle of the night complaining of pain in his left hand.

After X-rays in the hospital emergency room revealed a broken wrist, he gave up playing for the flag football team.

Last Saturday’s game was without incident or injury for him, beside sore muscles and a little stiffness.

And while he didn’t make any memorable throws, he contributed about five or six points to the score.

I probably shouldn’t mention the score, but I will.

After 2 1/2 hours of play, the neon yellow team won, scoring 16-13 in the first game and 31-13 in the second game.

There were plenty of laughable moments from the stands. Some players hogged the ball from their teammates, aiming for shots they usually missed.

One player tried unsuccessfully to pass the ball to a teammate after he attempted to pass a ball through his opponent’s legs.

During a time out, one player performed a dance jig on the court, prompting the referee to blow his whistle.

Following the game, players ribbed each other with age jokes and compliments.

Some, including my husband, limped or hobbled to their cars.

“I’m going straight to bed,” one player said.

My husband added, “I’m getting in the tub and soaking.”

He did.

He soaked, took a couple of ibuprofens, rubbed himself in alcohol, applied a tube of medicated ointment to his sore calves and arms and fell asleep.

“Would you do it again?” I asked him. “Oh, yeah — but not anytime soon. I’m still healing, but yes, I’ll do it again.”

The next North Iberville Cancer Fighter’s Relay for Life Walk is April 13 in Maringouin and again on April 20 in Plaquemine.

He’s got a couple of weeks to mend.

Chante Warren welcomes comments by email to chantewriter@hotmail.com.