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Sunday, April 15, 2001

Three new movies were beamed to me from the satellite last night: Romeo Must Die, Scream 3, and Love and Basketball. I think you can guess which one I watched.

Love and Basketball is one of those unambiguous titles that tells you exactly what the story is about. The trouble is, I'm not sure who the intended audience is. It's a little too much of a love story for basketball fans, and, well, vice versa. (There is one amazing basketball scene, shown through the eyes of a player at the end of a championship game, that gave me chills.)

It was the romantic side of the story that held my interest. Young basketball players living next door to each other grow up on different tracks that keep leading them back to each other. Sure, you can make a pretty accurate guess about the ending after the first scene, but the joy is in the journey.

The different ways boys and girls are taught to think about their places in society are tempered by the inner forces that drive each of the characters. The remarkable thing about this movie is the way their lives mirror each other. One has it easier because he's a boy with natural talent. The other works harder because she's a girl and has more to prove.

But as the boy becomes a man, he finds he's unprepared for the trappings and temptations of success. His self-image deteriorates as he makes poor decisions and finds himself unable to live his dream to the fullest.

Meanwhile, the girl finds that the hard work that has made her an athletic success has deprived her of a life that would make her truly fulfilled. Both of these characters have to choose, not between love and basketball, but simply how much of their happiness depends on each.

I don't know why I related to this movie. I never had any athletic ability, and I haven't had successful romantic relationships. The big choices always seemed to be out of my hands, as I struggled from day to day to keep from getting left behind.

The only thing I ever did well was school, and only in academic areas. Socially, I was a nonentity. I say that with no humility. I didn't want to be popular or accepted, and I definitely didn't work at it. Looking back, it seems like a cop out now, because of course I wanted to be popular and accepted. Didn't I?

Well, no, not if it took any effort on my part to change myself into someone else. And I never had the confidence that I could do that anyway. I never for one second in high school thought that there was a ghost of a smidgen of a chance that anything I could do would get me in with the In Crowd.

So I hung with my two or three nerd friends, cracking sarcastic about the In Crowd — as long as they were out of earshot. We weren't the confrontational types, either.

That's why I've never gone to a high school reunion. I had enough academic success that I think people would remember me. But I doubt that anyone misses me or wonders about me when I don't show up. And I've never done anything since the last day of college, twenty years ago, that would give me any of the confidence I lacked when we were teenagers.

My standard line is that I stopped developing (socially at least) when I was thirteen. I have no desire to prove that to anyone I knew when I actually was that age.

color between the paving stones

To be honest, I do know why I related to Love and Basketball. It's the same reason I like 10 Things I Hate About You, and watch Dawson's Creek. I'm a good audience for stories about young people finding their way, because it's a fantasy of my adult life. It's how I now sometimes wish that I'd wanted to be back then. Back then when I didn't care, or didn't want to care, or couldn't afford to care.

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Latest recommendation:

Dawn, Running with Scissors, April 11, When will the lamb chops stop screaming?

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