Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mameau Knows Her Basketball

'The Glide,' Clyde Drexler, Houston Cougars.
I am sitting near the ceiling of Charlie Bean's bedroom. This is because I am perched high up on his bed, which means I've climbed a ladder - Charlie wondered if I could make the climb - and am now ensconced with him on a bed structure that sits over his desk and fish tank. He has his own world up in that bed near the ceiling. Charlie is looking at 'Basketball's Greatest Stars', a picture book of the most terrific basketball stars of all time.
Charlie points to the book's cover and says, "That Larry Bird."
"Larry Bird," I say. "He played for the Boston Celtics."
Charlie looks at me with sudden awe. "You know your basketball," he says.
"I saw him play the Rockets," I tell my eldest grandchild, he who at ten loves and knows far more about basketball than I ever will.
He mentions Olajuwon and I say yes, I saw him play too.
I ask him, "Who was that crazy player who dyed his hair blond?"
"Dennis Rodman," he answers.
"Yes, Dennis Rodman. I saw him play too."
And then, "What was the name of that incredible Houston Cougar duo who played under Guy Lewis?"
"Phi Slama Jama," says Caroline, who has joined us in this tree top bed. And then we speak of 'The Dream' Olajuwon again and 'The Glide' Clyde Drexler.
Charlie is intrigued. How do I know all this basketball stuff. His Mameau actually went to basketball games?
I take the book from his hands and turn a few pages and point out Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barclay and Shaquille o'Neal.
I tell my grandson, "Way back in the day, I went to a lot of basketball games. We had season tickets for the Houston Cougars and perhaps we had them for the Houston Rockets. We saw a lot of basketball."
I said we went to so many Cougar games that I finally asked for a sports photographer pass and sat down under the basket with the other photographers. One season, we followed the Cougars to the playoffs in Salt Lake City and again, I photographed from under the basket. Sat next to the photographer from the Salt Lake City newspaper. And got a picture that he missed. An game changing shot. He leaned over toward me, "You got that shot, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did."
"Well, I didn't. Can the paper have your roll of film? We need that picture for tomorrow's paper."
And so it was that my photo appeared the next day in Salt Lake City morning paper.
Fact was, I photographed at both basketball and Cougar football games because I was sick and tired of going to sporting events. Photographing them gave me something to do during the games. I didn't have to feign enthusiasm and fake conversation up on the stands. Photographing the game was really rebellion.
I did not tell my grandson all of this, but I did say, "Charlie, I have plenty of negatives and contact sheets of basket ball games. Why don't I bring them to Seattle and we can see if there are photos I can print for you. Maybe I have some of Slama Jama." He is pleased with this idea.
So, those long-ago and innumerable sporting events I attended and which precipitated my stint as sports photographer have made my grandson's day. He smiles and says, "You know your basketball."
"Just a little bit, Charlie Bean," I say, "Just a little bit."

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