Basketball and discipline

by Brian Clarey

Basketball and discipline

From the front row things looked larger than life. Giant youth stalked the floor, their sneakers squeaking, feet slapping as they covered the court in three wide strides. The unmistakable sound of a ball on hardwood pierced the soundscape, a din of crowd noise, pom-pom rustle and blaring horns.

UNCG Men’s Basketball came to the Greensboro Coliseum amid war-like chants and genuine fanfare, with a densely packed room and enough crushed beer cans in the parking lot to assure me some serious tailgating had gone on.

I was a few minutes late, of course, because I had the boys with me and the boys have no sense of urgency except as it pertains to glasses of water in the middle of the night and trips to the bathroom when I’m making good time on the highway. Because of this tardiness we were forced to make our way across a crowded aisle to get to our seats, which were the best seats I’ve ever had for any sporting event, ever… including a couple stints on Press Row during the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament and a perch on the 17 th hole of the Wyndham Championship.

We sat so close I rested my feet on the edge of the court.

We were so close I could make eye contact with the UNCG dance team — which I think triggered the onset of puberty in my oldest boy. We were so close I caught an errant basketball as it careened out of bounds. So close that heckling would have made a difference in the opposing team’s foul-shot percentage.

The other team was Clemson, though, and they began to pull away from the UNCG Spartans at the midpoint of the first half.

True, UNCG lost their season opener 89-67 but in my mind it was a rousing success. I mean, why shouldn’t UNCG play in the coliseum? In case anyone hasn’t noticed: There are a hell of a lot of college hoops fans around these parts just aching to have a team to root for. UNCG has a challenging home schedule that includes Wake Forest, ECU, NC State, Appalachian State and Maryland. And the big-time atmosphere should give a boost to recruiting.

But most importantly, my boys absolutely loved it. Knowing what your kids love, I’ve learned, is key to enforcing discipline in a household. Find something they sincerely enjoy, and then take it away from them when they flout the rules. The impetus for this discovery was my oldest son, who as a child would be reduced to a sniveling, weeping mess when I put him in the corner for punishment. But as he got older, it seemed he kind of liked standing there with his nose against the wall — or, at least, he didn’t mind it as much. Anything to shut the old man up, he seemed to be thinking. Then I started going after the little bastard’s PlayStation games and he got on point.

It works with dogs, too. Or so I’ve heard…. Conversely, knowing what your kids love is key to rewarding them. My young ones like to swim, so when we have a Saturday morning without any bloodshed or destruction I bring them over to the YMCA and let them splash each other for an hour or so. They love candy so much that they’ll clean their rooms in like 20 minutes even for the chance to have a conversation about it. So yeah, I’ll dangle a Snickers bar or a trip to the ice cream place here and there to keep my kids in line. Whatever works, right?

They also like to see their father act like a jackass. So on Sunday, after they played nicely together for a couple hours, I gave them a few seconds of the running man.

What doesn’t work — for keeping my kids in line, anyway — is beating. I tried it for a while, and though admittedly a few smacks on the butt made me feel a little bit better, all it fostered in my kids, going by the looks on their faces after the tears subsided, were elaborate plans for future vengeance.

At one point I realized that these little people will be the ones taking care of me when I’m old and feeble. Or, given enough negative reinforcement, maybe they won’t.

I can see it now: me prone on a hospital bed or zombified in a Barcalounger; them standing around me talking like I’m not in the room.

“Screw him,” the oldest one will say. “Don’t you remember how he used to make us work for candy? The spankings?

How he used to make us stand in the corner?” “He used to take my stuffed animals and Barbies and put them on top of the refrigerator,” my little girl will chime in. “I say we put him in a welfare motel and sign him up for Meals on Wheels.”

“I don’t know,” my middle child, the sweet second son will counter. “Remember when he did the running man? And he used to take us to those basketball games. They were pretty fun.”

“Yeah,” the older one will eventually admit. “The old bastard was good for something, anyway.”