Thursday, August 30, 2007


My history with the game of basketball goes back to 1965, when my uncle Dick came out from Illinois and spent a couple of weeks at our house in California. I was 8 years old at the time, and Dick was 19. There were several things about him that made him "cool" in my opinion. He listened to rock and roll music, not the country western music that my Dad (and Dick's older brother) favored. And he preferred white bread for sandwiches, not the "healthy" whole-wheat bread that we had always eaten. For the first time ever, we had white bread in the house, and it sure was good!

While he was visiting, Dick and I often went down the street to our elementary school (Williamson) to practice shooting the basketball. The "courts" were asphalt, and were playground size - certainly not full NBA regulation courts!

I had fun playing basketball with Uncle Dick (well, most of the time), but I'm not sure he did. I had the habit of walking, not jogging or running, to retrieve balls that had bounced out of the court. I figured: "What's the hurry?" Plus I was not in great physical condition, and actually running, in any form, seemed to be a very bad idea to me. Dick often told me I needed to "hustle" more.

After Dick left us to go back home to Illinois, my interest in basketball began to fade.

Looking back on it now, I agree completely with Dick's point of view about "hustling". It really slowed things down if I leisurely ambled to where the ball was. But from the perspective of a lazy 8-year-old, "hustling" took too much energy. Anyway, I still enjoyed Dick's visit very much... it was an introduction to a world that I didn't know existed (white bread, AM top 40 radio, hanging out at th local McDonalds, ...)

Although we didn't know it at the time, Dick's life was to change dramatically in another year or two. He was with a bunch of friends in a car, and they had a serious traffic accident.(I don't know the details, but apparently Dick was a passenger, not the driver.) I think Dick was thrown from the car. He broke his spinal cord near his neck, and wound up in a wheelchair. He is in a wheelchair to this day.

This came as a great shock to him and to his family. I still remember getting the call to tell us what had happened. It was one of the few times I can remember that I couldn't keep from crying.

But a funny thing happened. Over the next few months and then years, Dick began to act like he was a new person, with a new and much better outlook on life. It was if he had a reason to live that he didn't before. He had been a kid without a future - he said he was on the road either to prison or to the graveyard before the accident. But after the accident, he started to grow up quickly. He enrolled in college, and finished four years later with a degree in Sociology, and then even got a Master's Degree.

After he finished with his MS, he got a job with "Impact", an organization that helped people with many different kinds of disabilities to live independently, and eventually became its director. From wild teenager to (a few years later) director of a center for independent living -- that's quite a transformation, and a very inspiring one. I do regard Dick even today as a inspiring example of how adversity, illness, or disability does not have to be the "end" -- in fact, it can be the beginning of a new and very satisfying life. Dick was with Impact for a long time (25 years, I think) and did an enormous amount of good for people with many diverse mental and physical ailments.

OK, now back to basketball...

In recent years (starting about 2002) I became a fan of NBA basketball. This was out of character for me, since I had never been much of a sports fan before. But I found it enjoyable to watch the Sacramento Kings, who had never been good at all, but suddenly were holding their own against teams like the Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, and the San Antonio Spurs - the "elite" NBA teams. So, since I was born and raised in Sacramento, I enjoyed seeing them come in as the underdog and defeat these powerhouse teams.

When the 2003 season rolled around, I even took the kids a couple of times to Staples Center when the Kings were in town to play the Lakers or the Clippers. We had fun. The kids found the basketball game a bit boring, but the liked the half time show, and especially the various things to eat and drink that were on sale.

Since then, it has been my habit to watch not only the Kings games, but also other teams I came to like - the Clippers, Lakers, San Antonio, Phoenix, Dallas, etc. Even my kids were amazed at the extent of my transformation from total non-sports fan to ardent basketball fan. But it didn't carry over to other sports. I still find baseball boring, and football is OK but I never seem to get around to watching it. Same with soccer. But somehow for me, basketball is much more interesting.

Now just so we are clear, I have to state that my new-found interest in basketball has not yet extended to actually playing the game. I should, of course, for exercise. But I think my skill level is not so high, so I would have to find other players without very high expectations...

In any case, we do have an old basketball hoop mounted on our carport, and I have a fairly new basketball. The kids and I occasionally play around with it, but never play "serious" games. But I have learned to shoot a bit, and I think this is a good way to test and to improve skills involving hand/eye coordination.

So I thought it would be interesting to try to do some free-throw shooting, just to see if I can still do it at all...

The movie below, taken by Tim, tells the story of our "basketball experiment" today.


J said...

Great post
Jo O
P.S. Dick you look like a mafia boss in this photo but what upstanding mafia family has the name "Dickies"... jeez

Verma G said...

Did Uncle Dick ever let you shoot baskets? My suspicion is that he just used you as a ball retriever. I remember the white bread thing but do not recall "soda with dinner." That would have been just too expensive, never mind the nutrition aspect

Good shooting and great to see the kids and CoCo.

Dickie said...

Hey that's a great picture of me. The shirt helps me remember who I am.

>Basketball rim, probably donated.
>Basketball, maybe $25
>Dave (The Shaqster) shooting freethrows, $2.50.
>Tim educating the Prof on scientific stuff, priceless.

I'm glad you're on this excercise program, but be aware Goodwin males are pre-disposed to hate excerise (Look at your dad and uncles). As a backup plan (should backslide on excercising) I suggest a Segway. Very rooted in science, and it does the balancing.

Dave said...

Dick - I actually have one of those Segways. It was donated to my lab by a guy we used to work with, who had bought it for himself. I found I hardly every used it. After the initial novelty wears off, they are really not so practical. They take up most of the sidewalk, and aren't allowed in the street...

I prefer to do my own balancing anyway!