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When it Comes to a Game of HORSE, I'm No MOTHERFUCKER! (or maybe I am...)

We moved around a lot while I was growing up but there were two things my father made sure all our houses had, a full-size flag pole in our front yard and a backboard over the garage...

I grew up raising and lowering our American flag, learning at an early age how to properly fold it while keeping it from touching the ground. My father always said that in addition to being a flagpole, it was also a lightning rod and it would protect our house from lightning strikes. His mother survived two lightning strikes inside their home, one where family folklore has it that the lightning traveled through her body and then out of the house through an open window... A tall tale? My grandmother told me the story herself and I believe her.

Although my own house doesn't have a garage, growing up all our homes had garages. One in particular, was a narrow, single-car garage that was unlit and smelled enough like mold that it would trigger anyone's gag reflex. It wasn't long after we moved into a different house that my father would put up a full-size flag pole and then build a backboard and mount it over the garage. We never used store-bought backboards either, my father would make them out of plywood, use 2" x 4" lumber to brace them and finish by painting everything white. He always left a 6" gap under it so rain and snow wouldn't collect behind it and rot the board. He had one rule, I always had to make sure the garage door was open so a short shot wouldn't break the glass windows that were part of most older garage doors.

There was no internet back then and shooting hoops was my favorite pastime, even during the winter when I'd shovel our driveway down to pavement and using gloves with cut-off fingers, I'd shoot around in all types of weather until long after dark. Before I went in for supper, I'd challenge myself to make 10 shots in a row, and they couldn't all be layups either. I took jump shots and hook shots and if I missed one, I'd have to start the count all over again. Even when my mother came to the front door a second or third time, I'd tell her I had to make ten in a row before I'd come in...

After I bought my own house and my three kids were old enough, my wife and I had a decision to make, should we install an above-ground pool or pave an area for a basketball court in the backyard. The street we live on is busy and I didn't want the kids playing in the driveway where a basketball could roll into the street where someone could get hit by a car. Everyone was pulling for the pool except me, and I insisted on a 30' x 30' paved court and that's what we got. They went to the beach all summer anyway...

My kids will be the first ones to tell anyone who will listen, that they suck at basketball, that having a court and a father who loved shooting around did nothing to improve their skill or their love for the game. While playing rec basketball my oldest son would consistently foul out before the end of the first half. He was a hack, so I always made sure I got there early so I could watch him foul out. Most fathers bragged about their son's shots, rebounds, passes, or steals, I could only shake my head after Michael knocked someone on their ass and proudly say, "That's my boy!"

George Carlin's 7 words you can't say on Television (Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits)

My other two boys, Nick and Dylan, had fun playing rec basketball, but their skills were limited. In fact, none of them has ever beaten me in a game of HORSE or any other bit of profanity we chose. I regularly challenged them with words like MOTHERFUCKER and COCKSUCKER, hoping they'd try harder, after all, who wants to lose a game and be the "Motherfucker" or the "Cocksucker"? Dylan had me on the ropes last year, but I came back and took him down, again.

             

Years ago we created a long shot from up on the deck and a club for those who hit the shot. At one point, anyone who came to our house stood up on the deck and took "The Shot" until they either hit it and became a member of "The Club", or missed so many shots we got tired of rebounding for them. It was always a lot of fun.

Here's the original shot from the old deck…

All the boys have moved out and when they come home, other than some competitive Cornhole, basketball is still a regular activity in our backyard. Last year, during a heavy windstorm, the acrylic backboard finally shattered… I looked out at it for months, debating whether I should replace the damaged backboard with a new one, or not. The kids were gone and at 64, I was rarely going out there myself to shoot hoops anymore… But then the word "tradition" began haunting me and I realized a house without a basketball hoop is incomplete, especially in my universe, so I started shopping online for a replacement backboard. I have a grandson now and I'm hoping that maybe he'll be the one to like basketball as much as I did when I was a kid…

There are a lot of backboards out there and since the NBA uses Spalding, I decided I'd replace the Porter I installed 21 years ago with a Spalding setup. I originally cemented the Porter 4" x 4" square pole in the ground and filled it with concrete, so I wanted to keep it and replace everything else.

Some of the newer, more expensive homes down the street have $2,500 setups, some with painted court keys, but I wasn't going there, after all, I played on imperfect pavement with plywood backboards growing up and it was never a problem. I found a Spalding 52" acrylic backboard set for $235 and a new extension arm for $89 and I decided to order it through Walmart...

The first box arrived open with parts missing, and the extension arm was all dinged up…

The first extension arm was delivered while I was home, but the driver never rang the doorbell, instead, he quietly left the damaged box on my front stairs before I had a chance to refuse it. I took it inside, opened it, and there was absolutely no packing and several parts must've fallen out through the open end and were missing. The box was made of hollow cardboard with a cheap honeycomb filler and it did not fare very well going through customs (China) and then down several conveyor belts in the U.S. The extension arm was badly beaten up so I called Walmart and they agreed to accept the return and send me another one.

The new one arrived a week later and that box was damaged too, but not as bad as the first one. All the parts were there and although the arm had some visible damage, I knew they could ship me 100 of 'em and this one might be the best I'd get, so I kept it.

When FedEx pulled in the driveway with the backboard a week later, I met my FedEx driver at the tailgate and we both agreed the box was badly damaged as were the visible corners of the backboard. She agreed to write it up as damaged and send it back.

Dylan & I opened up the second box hoping the backboard wasn't damaged, but it was…

The second backboard arrived on a Sunday, the day before my 65th birthday, and the cheap box was also damaged. I accepted it but only after the FedEx driver agreed to document the box as damaged. When I opened it and pulled the backboard out it was badly damaged and the paper-thin acrylic was warped. Parts were missing and it looked a lot like an unchecked return… I was pissed, I really wanted to restore my basketball universe in time for my birthday, but Spalding and Walmart were not cooperating.

I had to threaten my granddog "Kemba" that if she took any of my parts I'd trade her to the Oklahoma City Thunder…

I had a new/old Porter backboard that was sent to me as a replacement 20 years ago, when during the first winter, water got inside the tubular steel frame of my first one, froze, and split it. I spoke to Porter and told them they needed to start drilling weep holes at the bottom of their frames. (Spalding does it) The replacement backboard they sent was not the same as the original and I called them. They agreed to send the correct one and told me to keep or toss the first replacement they sent. I stored it in the unfinished part of my basement for years…

While Dylan held the Porter backboard in place I bolted it up…

I desperately wanted to replace the backboard, so I got the new/old Porter out of my basement, and wouldn't you know it, it worked with the new Spalding mount. I picked up a new rim and a black metal net (I love metal nets), and Dylan and I completed the installation. The rim sits at exactly 10', as it should.

I'm gonna sand and paint the 4" x 4" post with Rust-Oleum this weekend…

I ordered two Spalding 29.5" Street outdoor basketballs (14.99 each) and a grossly overpriced, two-ball steel caddy ($66.21) on Amazon to celebrate the restoration of my basketball universe.

I'm still undefeated on my court, but I'd gladly pass the torch to anyone who can beat me in a game of MOTHERFUCKER, motherfucker…