Big brother taught love for the game

Published 5:09 pm Friday, June 22, 2018

owe some things to my big brother Wayne. He taught me a great deal growing up, including how to get beat up every day. Some things he taught stuck, some didn’t.

For one, he taught me to love the New York Yankees, but that didn’t stick. The Yankees were replaced by the world-champion Astros a long time ago. Besides, the Yankees are a little too highfalutin’ for me today. They weren’t that way back then — or, at least, not that a seven-year-old could see — but I’m afraid those days of simplicity are gone. Of course, so are Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

Wayne favored Mantle, but I decided to be different. I went for Maris. I didn’t know it at the time, but Maris seems not to have gotten his due respect. I kind of like getting in the corner of someone who does his job the way it needs to be done and doesn’t necessarily get the recognition he deserves. We’ve all been there, I guess, but those kinds of things just make us tougher. Or they’d better.

Of course, Wayne taught me something more important than the Yankees. While that passed, this one hasn’t. He taught me to love basketball. That may have been his greatest gift, and I’ll always owe him for it. I thought of Wayne’s gift again this week as I watched the NBA draft. One particular player really caught my eye, Grayson Allen from Duke.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone smile bigger and longer than Grayson did when he is drafted to the Utah Jazz with pick No. 21. It obviously was a dream come true. You could tell he was a bit of an underdog himself.

I couldn’t help but get in his corner that night, even though he was a pretty temperamental college player. I think now that may have been how he had to play the game to be good at it.

For me, basketball was always a dream come true, too, even though we didn’t get our name called during the NBA draft. We did get our name called a few other times in other forums, though, and those times made all the difference. They enabled us to make a living for three decades with that orange sphere in our hands.

The amazing blonde and I have even adopted orange as our favorite color. That is pretty telling since she had not even been to a basketball game when we met and married back in 1975. Now she’s been to 17,911 of them at the last count.

But Wayne started it all. Under his influence, I started playing the game long before I could get the ball to the rim. My other brother Tim along with Wayne laughed at my basketball shot when I was four or five. They said I threw the football, basketball, and baseball the same way. I just rared back and let it fly.

But one day, I don’t remember when, I guess the ball grazed the rim slightly, and a week or two later it must have crawled over the rim and into the net for the first time. Too bad we can’t go back and build monuments to those momentous days. I’m sure I ran in the house hollering that “I made a shot!”  But I doubt Tim and Wayne threw a party. Instead, they would’ve said,

“It’s ‘bout time. You’ve been out there chunkin’ it for five years.”

There wasn’t a great deal of mushiness in our household. I guess everybody was out to make you a man, not a crybaby, even though I guess I was called “crybaby” every day of my life. That comes from being the “baby” in the family. Being the baby is a tough job, as some of you know.

But one day in a hot, muggy gym in Dallas, around 1975, my big brother Wayne gave up calling me a crybaby.

I’ll tell you why when we walk into the “gym” next week.