March madness is again upon us so we're being bombarded by images of basketball in all its various incarnations. It's difficult to avoid and I have to admit that I'm pretty much enjoying it, but strangely enough I sometimes find my thoughts turning to — rock and roll?
I was watching my young grandson playing basketball the other day, and I couldn't help thinking about how much some things have changed. He plays in a church-sponsored youth league, and the games are held at the church's huge annex building that was built just for that type of thing. Along with various other rooms and offices, the building encompasses an enormous gymnasium that has FOUR basketball floors, each with bleachers and electronic scoreboards.
Before the games, a mob of relatives and family friends file into the place and fill the seats to overflowing. When it's time to start, the overhead lights are replaced by flashing colored strobes, and smoke flows across the floor. Then a spotlight focuses on a big door that's lined on both sides by pint-sized cheerleaders. The players emerge one at a time, and as they're announced on the PA system they run across the floor waving their arms and acknowledging the cheers.
Please understand that I'm not here to criticize, because I understand that this is what's needed to catch and hold the attention of today's kids, who see this kind of thing almost everywhere they go. But I can't help contrasting it with a simpler time.
When I was just a little older than my grandson, I was a member of a scout troop that met weekly in the basement of a church, a solid three-story structure that had been around for a while but was still in pretty good shape. After every meeting we'd race up three flights of stairs (wish I could still do that) to get to the top floor, which contained a basketball court.
It was unheated, so we could see our breath in cold weather, but I still remember how much fun we had in those informal games. In fact, we had so much fun that our scoutmaster - who served as referee - soon began to realize that we were rushing through the meeting every week, just so we could get upstairs and play basketball. He applied the brakes to that notion, but we still had fun.