On Saturday morning, 8-year-old Zachary McGaughey had a 10:30 a.m. tip-off time at Prairie Elementary. This was the fourth Saturday morning of the Worthington Area YMCA basketball season, and he eagerly awaits game day on a regular basis.
Naturally, Becca and I — along with the Z-Man’s older sister, Grace — were in attendance, and we watched Zach play what was easily his best game defensively (though, to no great surprise, he was disappointed to make a basket). One other fan was also on hand for the game — Globe sports editor Doug Wolter, whose support was a very pleasant surprise. He even returned to the Prairie gym at 10:30 after first showing up at 9 — that’s because I had casually mentioned to him the night before (mistakenly) that Zach had a game at 9 a.m. Whatta guy.
Zach may love playing basketball, but he also truly enjoys playing video games on my iPad and our Xbox. His gaming most frequently revolves around Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Avengers, Power Rangers, Lego Ninjago and a couple of others that I can’t come up with right now, but last week he ended up picking out a couple of professional sports-themed games from Family Video. One was simulated hockey, which was slightly surprising since he doesn’t play the sport and doesn’t even really enjoy skating. The other: basketball.
Zach asked me last Sunday morning, before church, to come down to the basement with him and watch him play NBA Jam. I was at first an enthusiastic spectator, because I was hoping that perhaps playing a basketball-themed game would somehow give him more of a sense of the flow of the game and maybe offer some sort of lesson on offensive and defensive strategies. Well, no such luck whatsoever.
What I watched was a two-on-two Lakers-vs.-Celtics showdown with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol taking on Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. There were ridiculous, completely unrealistic dunks galore by the Lakers, who Zach was defending, and all kinds of flaming nets after such slams were made. Meanwhile, Zach pretty much just wanted to try to see how far out he could shoot 3-pointers from. (Incidentally, the hockey game he showed me afterward — NHL 14, I believe — was much more realistic (and was even narrated by regular ESPN hockey announcers Gary Thorne and Bill Clement).
Video games notwithstanding, Zach still has a passion for basketball that’s far greater than other sports, with the possible exception of baseball (his favorite switches with the season). This past Sunday afternoon, he went and shot hoops with the neighbor down the street. I had a to-do list and wound up missing out, and instead got sucked in later on with the Mega Basketball app on the iPad.
Grace had topped my seemingly unbeatable Mega Basketball high score months ago, and I’ve spent a little bit of time practically every day trying to beat it. Several times I came close, only to miss multiple shots in the waning seconds and come up just short. Finally, though, I set a new gold standard Sunday night after the Super Bowl, topping Grace’s old mark by 140 points.
The game itself is pretty easy conceptually — you simply shoot different colored balls from a variety of spots on a gym floor. You can get both bonus points and extra time depending on how well you do and which shots go in. Zach, incidentally, doesn’t play this that much, probably because there’s no tangible opponent; you just shoot and shoot and shoot.
Now that I’ve gotten the new high score, I’m more than ready to stop shooting and shooting and shooting for a long time. That said, I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if Grace — who is home on yet another snow day as I type this — has already set a new record.
If so, I’d be inclined to let her keep those honors and stick to something I know I can still beat her at (for now) — a good, old-fashioned game of H-O-R-S-E.