I was standing in a field covered in snow, next to my son’s elementary school, watching from a distance. I was spying on a group of fifth- and sixth-grade boys playing basketball on the blacktop behind the school. No adults were present, and I made sure to stay out of plain sight.

It was freezing outside and the ball barely bounced. There were lots of shots that clanged off the backboard or hit nothing but air. With no parents watching, there was no gnashing of teeth after each errant shot or bad pass. In fact, what struck me were the laughter and smiles plastered on each boy’s face.

At one point my son launched a shot so offline it became lodged between the top of the backboard and steel support. The boys howled as they threw their boots at the ball to get it down. It was obvious they were having fun!

There was real competition, too. Despite the freezing temperature, some kids had worked up enough of a sweat to be playing in a T-shirt. I was impressed that the children could play to win but still be friendly and respect each other. Play was physical but without excessive pushing and shoving. Close calls were negotiated, and if no consensus reached, the age-old “do over!” was enacted.

Perhaps someday, one of these boys will run for office. Maybe for governor, or even president of the United States! I hope he is discouraged against dividing his constituents and enraging his “base.” I hope he realizes the value of civil discourse, compromise, respectful competition and companionship. In short, I’m hoping he remembers the lessons learned in pickup basketball.

Scott Morin

South Portland


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