Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bach and Basketball


I was in 8th grade when I fell head-over-heels in love. With basketball, that is. Every chance I got, I dribbled down the block and a half to the court in Warinanco Park and worked out my moves pretending I was Bob Cousy or Cazzie Russell. At the end of each school day, my fingers would itch to hold that ball and take my first shot. I suppose it became an addiction of sorts or least the feeling the daily coffee drinker has waiting for that first sip. I remember bringing a shovel in the winter to clear the court when it snowed. I was that passionate.

8th grade was also my first recording session, as I played Bach’s Little Prelude and Fugue in D Minor on the Abraham Clark High School organ for the Spring Concert and they made an LP recording of it (still have it). After that peak moment in my musical career, I stopped taking organ and piano lessons with Mrs. Lutz, probably partly because I wanted to play basketball more than practice Bach.

All these years later, basketball is long gone—my last game was the student-faculty SF School game two years ago where I hurt my leg and began summer vacation limping and finally realized I was just too damn old to play hard and it was the only way I could play. But Bach lives on in my life (on piano not organ) and thank you to Mrs. Lutz for that.

But if I can’t play ball, I can still appreciate the game as a spectator and at the moment, I am on my Fair-Weather-Fan rampage, watching every single one of the Warrior’s 10-0 playoff victories at Yancey's Saloon. Even went to see the Cavaliers and the Celtics last night. While so much of our culture seems on a downhill spiral—pop/rock music generally more vapid with dubious lyrics, public discourse at a new level of “Duh!” and don’t get me started on our moral compass with the broken needle and the circus in Washington—basketball skills and prowess have ascended to extraordinarily high levels. Steph Curry is far from the only one hitting those three-pointers and if time travel could pit just about anyone of this year’s playoff teams against those from the late 60’s who I watched, I believe it would be no contest.

So after watching the Cavaliers beat the Celtics last night, I returned to Bach on my newly-tuned piano, English Suite No. 6. And while I was playing, I had the strong image that my left hand and right had were two opposing teams playing against each other, running up and down the court with surprise moves, head-fakes, three-point leaping shots that hit the mark and occasional unwelcome fouls when my two hands collided. Try it! Playing or listening. It really works. Could be interesting to shut off the sound next game and use this as the soundtrack. 

And a good reminder that the two teams are not competing against each other anymore than the right and left hands are. They're working to make a third thing of beauty. Of course, you will never convince either the players or the fans that this is so. Sports and music deviate by this insistence that only one team can win. But at the end of a great game, you can feel the players appreciating the other team and saying the equivalent of “Thanks for the great music!”

Go Warriors!!

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