When The Game Is No Longer Fun

RALEIGH, N.C. – At some point, the game was no longer fun. The best player in the gym couldn't get up and down the floor. Fans whose team was down by 30 heckled referees and the kids, well, they were just going through the motions. There was no fun. I mean zero fun, to be had at the Garner-Millbrook game Tuesday night.

When Perspective Gets Lost

Sometimes, adults lose perspective of what's important.

Tuesday's night game matching Garner and Millbrook is a textbook example. Garner's best player, sophomore forward James Mays, has been hurt since the beginning of the season. His ankle had enough tape on it for an entire team. But still, Mays played.

If you take one look at him you'll quickly notice that this 6-7, 195 pound sleek athlete is probably going to be a stud basketball player. On a court with 9 other kids he stands out despite the injury. He looks the part. First impressions tell you that he's probably a star. Read the newspaper and you know he's a star.

So, why would this "star" get only 6 six points as his team loses 86-61? Well, that's not the question. The real question is why did he score at all.

Mays was limping so badly to start the game that it became apparent, at least to a handful of observers that he was just going to test the ankle before sitting this one out. Two minutes into the game, someone turned to me and said, "he shouldn't be playing." At the end of the first quarter in which he played all eight minutes, his boys from Garner trailed 23-5 with no relief in sight. No way he comes out for the second quarter, right? Wrong.

Mays played most of the second quarter. By this time, the game had to be an afterthought for him. The injured thoroughbred could barely get up and down the floor and crossing half court was starting to become an exception and not the norm. With 4:44 left in the second quarter he took himself out. End of story, he's going to sit this one out, right? Wrong.

With 3:03 remaining in quarter No. 2, Mays re-entered the game. Whether it was his idea or someone else's to come back in is a mystery. But, the sophomore re-entered the game. At the end of the first half his team trailed 55-28. Again, the game is over at this point. There's no reason for him to play and his team has no chance of winning the game. Time to take the shoes off, find a comfortable spot on the bench and ice that baby down.

It didn't happen that way.

What's really amazing at this point is that aside from the three guys I was sitting with, it seemed as if few others in the gym noticed just how injured Mays was. It was like we were watching a different game. Some Garner fans actually had themselves convinced that the referees and their calls were the reason why their team was getting blown out. In their minds, the storyline had to be the officiating.

Just to recap so far: Mays is hurt badly. The fans are riding the officials and the opposing coaches have already had a mini-exchange of words over Millbrook's decision to apply some pressure in the second quarter. Mays is hurt badly.

The third quarter is about to start and here I am naively thinking that there's no way Mays is going to play this half. Wrong again. Instead of not playing, Mays comes out of the locker room and his ankle appears to have more tape on it than when he left the floor in the first half. He's going to try and play. Someone needs to step in and stop this, right? I mean the kid spent most of the second quarter wondering when a sub was coming in for him.

Now, Mays can barely walk out there. He tries to make a move and gets nowhere. He can't jump for a rebound and passes on a shot because he realizes that if he leaves his feet, he might not land on solid ground when he returns. We've reached the point where it's painful to watch him play in pain. Running is no longer an option. Walking is becoming painful for him and me. The last thing you want to see is a kid seriously injure himself.

The third quarter ends with Garner trailing 74-39. Again, game over. Take the kid out and get him rest.

From my seat, I think I hear someone on the bench say, "What's wrong with your ankle, you're limping again?" Say what? Are you kidding me? The kid is in pain. At the end of the third quarter, he sits down on the bench and takes his shoes off. Hello, he's trying to tell the adults in the gym that there's no way he wants back in the game. He's hurt and it looks like he's hurt bad.

Finally, an adult on the bench tells him to go get some ice. Well, it's about time.

Mays spends the rest of the game sitting at the end of the bench with an ice pack on his ankle. He's watching the game, but his mind seems to be somewhere else. His teammates are just going through the motions. The last place the five guys in Garner uniforms still want to be is out on the floor. Right about now, basketball is no longer fun. Mays looks distant. The injury is a high-ankle sprain and it seems painful.

This appears to be the kind of injury that will need time to heal. Hopefully, someone will step in and make sure this kid doesn't step on the court until he's healthy.

Winning is great. It's a rush. Kids love to win. Parents love to win. Fans love to see their teams win.

Winning isn't everything.

Scout Hoops Top Stories