“We’re gonna smoke ‘em,” Sam said. “Smoke ‘em like beef.”
“What?” I said, hand on the doorknob.
“The other team. We’ll smoke them like beef.”
“Oh.” I pulled the door shut. We were on the way to Upwards, the Christ-centered basketball league my boys have played in for years. “I’m not sure that’s the idea,” I said. “To smoke the other team like beef.”
“Sure it is, Mom. It’s a game.”
He was right. Basketball is a game. Someone wins. Someone loses. Everyone tries his best. It can be aggressive. I get that. But beef smoking? Sounded rough. And tough. For a league that passes out stars for Christ-likeness and good sportsmanship.
“Well, let’s just do our personal best, honor God, and have a fun game,” I said.
“Sure,” he said. “And then we’ll smoke ‘em. Smoke ‘em good.”
An hour later I was at church, sitting in one of the plastic chairs that frame the basketball court. Sam’s team was behind. The other team was taller. More skilled. Better. And the score reflected the difference.
“Pass the ball,” Sam’s coach yelled. “Pass it in.”
Samuel’s teammate passed the ball. That player dribbled and passed the ball again. To another player. A boy who’d been trying all season to make a shot.
I watched this, over and over, throughout the game. The boys on Sam’s team had opportunities to make baskets. Score points. But they passed the ball. To their teammate. To their friend.
And when that little guy, at long last, made a two-point swoosh, the whole team cheered.
Sam’s team lost that day, but they didn’t mind too much. I think they felt like winners, and they were.
As for smokin’ beef, I’ve decided that’s okay, too. At the right time. In the right place.
So long as it’s wrapped in brotherly love.