There’s a soft tap on my shoulder during the second quarter.
“Dad,” my son whispers, “when are you going to play?”
He’s eight and still believes his old man can do anything.
Someday he’ll learn how untrue that is — especially when he realizes Daddy is the least mechanically inclined human on the planet, that garden slugs are better with their hands.
But right now, we’ll take being a superhero in his innocent eyes.
“Dad,” he asked while watching hockey highlights last week, “is Connor McDavid faster than you?”
If he only knew how much faster. If my extensive contract allowed me to use two garden slug references in the same column, I would use it here to describe my lack of skating speed. (I’m not allowed to say “Stephen Harper” either. Ooops.)
Anyway, to answer the kid’s earlier question about when Daddy is going to play: “It remains to be seen.”
Because my team is the Harlem Globetrotters and one of these things (me) does not belong.
They excel at basketball. I don’t, although I played high school ball for three years with the hapless Herdman Huskies.
The Trotters’ tour recently swung through town for the second time in two years, and for the second time in two years, they let me join them.
Read what happened the first time Steve Bartlett got called up by the Globetrotters here.
Again, the sports transaction made a real headline (see above).
My son missed last year’s game, but heard me talk about it a lot in the days — “Could you move so I can lie on the couch, because my butt really aches from sitting on the bench.”
Being part of the Globetrotters last year was an incredible experience, a boyhood dream come true, but my borrowed basketball shoes never actually saw a second of floor time.
The opportunity to join the team again came with expectations they were going to play me.
This was very exciting for my son, who proudly boasted about it to the neighbourhood kids.
It wasn’t as exciting for me — “#$%^&, what if they let me play?”
There was no fear of making thousands howl “boo” or roll their eyes at my lack of talent — come on, I write this column every week — but there was some anxiety about making an ass of myself in front of the boy.
Seriously, he saw me with my shirt off recently and quipped, “Daddy you look like Jon Cena!”
“You can’t see me,” I replied.
Dear Reader, I’m about to share a humungous, deeply personal secret with you: I look nothing like John Cena with my shirt off.
Back to the Globetrotters game.
My teammates continue putting on a spectacular show, with dramatic dunks, precision passing, dynamic dribbling and shocking shooting.
They break every few minutes for some hijinks with fans and their opponents, the Washington Generals.
It’s an electrifying package to watch at courtside, on the Globetrotters bench, in a Globetrotters jersey.
There’s another tap on my shoulder at half-time.
“Daddy, when are they going to put you in?” my son asks.
I tell him that’s up to the coach, and break it to him that they might not let me play.
He refuses to believe it. He’s enjoying the game, but really wants me in it.
But that doesn’t happen in the third or fourth quarters.
The Globetrotters end up winning — what an upset, hey? — but I don’t see the hardwood.
My son isn’t pleased but quickly turns his focus to the nearby souvenir stand.
As I’m leaving the bench to follow him, the Globetrotters’ coach asks me to get my boy.
I fetch him and, with hundreds waiting for autographs, the team puts everything on hold so my son and I could be in the team picture.
The boy is absolutely thrilled. It’s a magical moment.
On the way home, he says, “Dad, I guess they just didn’t need you to help them win?”
“No,” I reply, “I guess they didn’t.”
Steve Bartlett is an editor with SaltWire Network. He dives into the Deep End Mondays to escape reality and a full court press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.