Being a “superfan” on zoom isn’t quite the same as being a “superfan” in-person
Over the past two years, one of the major casualties of the pandemic has been children’s activities and sports. In 2019-2020, the older Z and younger Z were a part of no less than 4 activities: piano lessons, competitive basketball, a family gym membership, as well as religious learning at our local mosque. As the pandemic hit, the piano lessons stopped, the family gym membership was put on hold, religious learning was put online, and competitive basketball has been on and off for the past 18 months. As many of you can attest, these sports are not only important for the kids who are directly involved but for the entire family, as these kinds of activities bring the whole family together whether we are all supporting younger Z at his basketball game or listening to older Z play the piano. For a good chunk of the pandemic, I have selfishly missed being a parent spectator at my kids’ activities. I aim to be my kids’ version of Nav Bhatia, the famous Toronto Raptors “Superfan” who is famous for never missing a game and cheering passionately, always. Finally, my opportunity to re-emerge as younger Z’s superfan would arise as he tried out for his “rep” basketball team for the 2021-2022 season; For those of you that don’t know, a rep team is one that plays against teams that are from other towns and cities in the provincial basketball association and is usually played at a higher level.
This year the tryout was particularly innerving.The 2020-2021 basketball season was basically wiped out because of COVID. Here we were at tryouts seeing more boys and their families than ever before. I estimated over 65 young boys along with their supporters at tryouts, all with dreams of playing “rep”. As I watched I could see making this team would be very difficult and a spot for younger Z was not guaranteed.
After tryout #1 I asked him how he did. He said,
“I tried my best, Dad. I hope I make the team.”
He would make the cut and get invited to the second and final tryout.
After tryout #2, another grueling affair, I told him
“You left everything on the court and whether you make the team or not I want you to keep playing basketball.”
I was cautiously optimistic he had made the team but with these things, you never know until they happen. The next day I received an email that he had made the team and as happy as he was, I was probably just as happy if not moreso, since I could finally, after 18 months, take my spot in the bleachers and become my son’s superfan once again.
As the team practiced before their first game, slowly the parents of all the kids on the team started to come together. After all, most of us would be coming to the games and watching with one another. The kids were developing as a team on the court and the parents and supporters of the kids were developing as a team off the court. Finally the day of the game, the first game in almost a year had come. Myself, older Z, and A and A, younger Z’s Mom and Stepdad, sat in our own little section getting ready to watch the game. My adrenaline was pumping as much as every one one of those 12 year old kids. I was ready to go and become the ultimate cheering machine for younger Z.
Now a note: although I do cheer very loudly for the home team and younger Z, I never heckle the other team and do my very best to abstain from booing the referees, although I definitely eye roll or mutter under my breath about calls that don’t go our way.
On that October day, the boys played with passion and energy as did their opponents. The game was wildly entertaining as both teams did their very best. The parents and supporters of both teams were also loud and passionate and as much as I did my best “superfan” impression, there were parents on the other team that were as loud if not louder than me. In the end, younger Z’s team was victorious by a slim margin and the boys, Coach N, and I along with the rest of the parents smiled, reveling in our first victory in almost a year and a half.
Now, since that first game, many more games have passed. Our team has built up momentum and has been on an impressive winning streak. With these victories however is the sad fact that provincial guidelines have prevented more than one spectator for each player to attend the game in person. This may be a small detail to some but it has been a huge blow to our team. Most of the boys have parents, siblings, grandparents, even extended family wanting to watch these games in-person. Alas, we have been given solace that those parents, family, and friends that are not permitted to watch in person can watch the game over the internet at home. So over the past few weeks I have been relegated to watching younger Z’s games online and let me tell you as much as I love seeing him play on the screen, it is so much better in person. There is no replacing the bleachers, front and center.
As we move forward to the second half of the season, I am cautiously optimistic that all family and friends will be able to watch the games in person and we can all cheer our U12 Basketball team on especially since as of now, the number of indoor gathering limits have been increased to 50.
The impact of the pandemic on youth activities and sports has been absolutely devastating and understated. It’s been difficult for family and friends to be denied the chance to support their young ones in person and it’s been harsh for kids to not have their true fans at their developmental milestones.
One thing is absolutely clear, Nav Bhatia and I, will always remain superfans and may our love for in-person cheering forever be a part of our kids / teams’ lives.