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Fifty Shades of Mom Watching Her Kid Play Ball

Mom knew best. Sports are for kids. And for mom, no matter my age, I was always her kid.

Although Mother’s Day just passed, it is never too late (or early) to sing the praises of moms. As my mom would say, “Every day should be Mother’s Day. Be nice to me every day, not just on Mother’s Day.”

Moms are the best. Is there a better species on this planet? And boys and men: nobody loves you like your moms.  NOBODY. Sorry wives, but it’s true. If you don’t believe me, just watch Brad Garrett (from Everyone Loves Raymond fame) in 2006 in episode six called “Your Mother or Your Wife” of the TV sitcom, ‘Til Death.

Ubiquitous moms.  Watch a college basketball game in a small gym and there is a good chance you will sit near one of them.  If you do, “seeing the whole court” will take on a whole new dimension.

Here are some memories of moms at work, watching over their kids play.

Mom’s Eyes Adore You

If you don’t believe Brad Garrett, how about this one?  Granted, it’s a very ugly scene.  Shaquille O’Neal shooting foul shots that is.  A while back, in a playoff game with Shaq at the line, remember it was mother Lucille who watched hopefully, as then wife Shaunie covered her eyes.

Moms, Dads, and Girlfriends: Who Loves You Pretty Baby?

As Derek Jeter, the future Hall-of-Fame shortstop for the New York Yankees was walking off the field in his last game at Yankee Stadium a number of Septembers past, he was greeted by his mom, dad, sister, nephew, and girlfriend (and now wife) Hannah Davis.

Like the Temptations, it might just be my imagination, but it looked like Jeter’s mom Dorothy, as she was fighting back the tears, made sure to be the first one to hug her son.  It also seemed that when mom looked at her son, her eyes were saying, “nobody is prouder of you than me.” And kudos to girlfriend Davis for letting family members hug Derek first.

Ex-Wives, Dads, and Girlfriends

The names in this story have been left out to protect the innocent.  See Dragnet.

D-III college basketball game a five years ago – just a few subway stops away from Brooklyn.  (Keep reading and you will see why Brooklyn is important.)

A few weeks before the game, I had a business call with a guy.  Guy said his son played for his college team.  I wanted to watch his son play and also earn some points with dad. Did not know what the dad looked like.  Before game, stands were sparse. Went over to a woman and asked her if she knew where the dad might be sitting.  She said she was his ex-wife and she pointed to about 10 rows up where he was sitting.

Feeling very awkward and perhaps guilty that I might have to choose the dad over the mom to watch the game with, I asked her if she was going to sit with her ex-husband. She was very cool about it and did not seem to harbor ill will for her ex. But she said she would not be sitting with him. His girlfriend was with him.  So I kind of apologized, and headed up to sit with the dad.

What were the chances of that?   By the way, I should have sat with her.

That’s My Boy

Who did we miss more the 2012-13 NBA season, Ray Allen or his mom Flo?  Loved seeing Flo on TV at Boston Garden (ok, TD Garden) for a number of years. Wearing her white Celtics jersey with the number 20, a few rows behind the basket, her golden curls sitting on top of her head, the cameras would show her cheering for her son.  My fav: after a great play by Ray, she stood up and you could read her lips exulting “that’s my boy.”

Wiser than King Solomon

So whom did mom root for when Eli and Peyton’s teams played each other, Serena went against Venus, and Pau Gasol and brother Marc went mano a mano?  Is there a Mrs. Barone (Raymond’s mom from Everybody Loves Raymond) showing blatant favoritism to a younger son in the sports’ world?

Not sure anybody would fess up to being that mom.

A video interview with Olivia Manning, the mother of Eli and Peyton, by Dorothy Cadet from Examiner.com, suggests a very wise approach to this issue.

In a brilliant splitting of the baby down the middle move, Mrs. Manning says she cheered for each of them when they were on the field (since they both play QB, they are not on the field at the same time) and feels bad for the one who loses.  But mom let on about being more protective of baby boy Eli.

Friends, Friends, Friends

The top story in this category may be the night in 2011 when JaVale McGee was competing in the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest.  His mom, former WNBA player Pam McGee, looking very lovely indeed, came out to the court and gave pecks on the cheeks to each of the five male judges.  Hard to forget judge Dr. J (Julius Erving) putting a not too pretty move on Pam as she leaned in.

Lean on Me

Near the end of the college basketball season, I watched the latter part of an ECAC championship game involving the women’s team from Brooklyn College. A player’s mom was sitting in the row in front of me, one seat to the right. It was her graduating daughter’s last game, win or lose. All those years of watching her terrific b-baller daughter play.  Overtime game.  Every possession mattered at the end.

As the game progressed, we bonded over the excitement. Near the end of the game, in a moment of, I can’t take this anymore, she turned around and rested her arms above my bent knees and buried her face in her arms.

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

Maybe I do have a sympathetic face.

It’s the D-III game I mentioned earlier. After the game was over and I was leaving, I passed the mom of the home team’s star guard.  The mom wanted to know if I was related to any of the players.  I explained why I came.  She then encouraged me to come to more games.

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team?

You know what fear is?  Mistakenly sitting in a section surrounded by an opposing player’s mom, grandma, and other relatives.  Happened to me at a Queens College-NYIT woman’s basketball championship game. Thankfully, I emerged unscathed.

You’re Not Playing Ball for a Living

In the 1940s, my second cousin (no one ever says first cousin once removed) Murray – from Brooklyn – was invited by the Dodgers to go to Florida and try out for shortstop.  His mom, my great aunt, Aunt Fraidel, wouldn’t let him go.  She objected because it was too far away.  Cousin Murray did not go.  Aunt Fraidel may have been a protective Jewish mom, but trust me, no shrinking violet was Cousin Murray.  No one told him what to do.  But his mom could.

You Want to Play Ball for a Living?

“For the times they are a-changin’”, wrote Bob Dylan. Well a little bit anyway.

Stanford grad and basketball player Chiney Ogwumike started her WNBA career in 2014 with the Connecticut Sun. Her dream was to play pro basketball for a number of years.  But her mom Ify seemed to be nudging her in a different direction.

When Chiney took an apartment for her rookie season, her mom gave her a study guide for the GREs, a test you usually need to take to get into graduate school, and placed it on her night table reported Seth Berkman of the New York Times.

In 2020, Chiney is still playing pro ball and is also TV sports announcer.  Looks like mom is still waiting.

Hair or There?

The starting center on the girl’s JV basketball team I coached was going to be a bridesmaid at a wedding about six hours before one of our games.  Hair and makeup had to be done. Wanted to make sure she would play in the game.  No problem I thought. Wrong.

As I pleaded my case to the girl, I thought she was softening. She put her mom on the phone. Game over. I couldn’t believe it. In desperation, I then spoke to the dad.  Thought I would find an ally. He was actually a bit pissed.  I probably angered the mom.  You know, unhappy wife, unhappy life.

They’re All My Sons

Brooklyn’s St. Francis College men’s basketball team had a season to remember in 2014-15. They came this close to making the NCAA tournament for the first time in the school’s history.  Sitting a few rows up, just right of half-court for the Wagner game late in the season – in downtown Brooklyn – I found myself sitting one row back and one seat over (it just happens that way) from senior guard Brent Jones’ mom.

Jones’ mother was into the game.  Not that loud, although I think the refs could hear her. It seemed that on almost every play, every call, and every non-call, her body language or voice gave expression to her desire for her son’s team to win. She was that away with respect to the whole team, not just her son.  With St. Francis comfortably ahead late in the game, there was still no let down on any injustices she saw committed by the refs.

They’re Not All My Daughters

I started a frosh over a soph at center for the opening game one season.

As soon as the lineups were announced, the mom told her sophomore daughter she had “gotten the call” and they both left the gym.   Later that night as I spoke to the mom on the phone, the mom said there was an emergency they had to attend, but then proceeded to vigorously complain about her daughter not starting.

Play All You Want, But What Time are You Coming Home for Dinner?

Coach Larry Brown jokes that the only times his mom knew where both he and his brother Herb were – two well-traveled coaches – were when their teams played each other.

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Ever notice mom when her son gets injured during a game?  Waiting to see what happens, mom stands quietly in front of her seat, and her hands are pressed together with fingers pointing upwards, as if or actually praying.  Then when her kid gets up and looks ok, the mom is still quiet, still standing, and a bit shaken, stunned by what might have been.

Smiles and Tears

Favorite non-tourney basketball game of the year.  Senior night.  Watch moms smiling though the tears as their babies finish up four years of college.

Tears of Joy

At a pre-game ceremony at the St. Francis game, Brent Jones and fellow classmate Jalen Cannon were honored for each scoring 1,000 points in their careers.  And Brent’s mom started to shed tears. As Brent stood on the court receiving the award – a commemorative basketball – Brent was looking at his mom. Enough said.

In Conclusion – My Mom (and Brooklyn)

Forget about Brooklyn being in the house. Brooklyn is the house.

My mom was born and raised in Brooklyn.  A Brooklyn Dodgers fan.

Alluding to 50 shades of anything seems somewhat disrespectful to my mom given the origin of the phrase.  But my mom was contemporary and I don’t think she would have minded.  No matter what, she definitely would have forgiven me.

As a younger woman, my mom went to Dodger games at Ebbets Field.  She knew what Jackie Robinson had been through and felt bad for him.

In the early 1960s, my brother Stan left our Queens garden apartment (in the ‘60s, Queens was the new Brooklyn, now Brooklyn is the new Brooklyn) to go to a Yankees World Series game.  A little while later, my mom realized Stan left his glasses home.  “He won’t be able to enjoy the game,” she said. Not knowing where he was sitting and despite my protestations that she would never find him, mom left the apartment to take a bus and two subway lines to go to Yankee Stadium to bring Stan his glasses. P.S. The Stadium guards did not let her in, but she did meet the former manager of the Yankees, Casey Stengel at the entrance.

I remember her sympathy extending to John’s coach Joe Lapchick in 1965.  I was watching on TV the last game Lapchick coached, when his St. John’s team won the NIT at Madison Square Garden.  Lapchick was being forced to retire because of the school’s mandatory retirement age of 65.   When I told my mom that, she felt sad for him.

My mom freely let me play every game under the sun.   Except tackle football.  Thought it was too dangerous.  But ever the dutiful son, I still played.  Tackle games, but without equipment.  To hide the fact that I was playing, I had to learn how to sew.  Needed to sew a sweatshirt that got torn up while playing.

In my 30s, I was coming home to my wife and kids with injuries from playing basketball on weekends. My mom gently encouraged me to stop so as to not jeopardize my responsibilities to my family. Mom knew best. Sports are for kids.  And for mom, no matter my age, I was always her kid.

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Andy Lipton

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