Today's Beautiful Gem: `Hoop Dreams' - Some Random Thoughts (Part I)

Normally you will find in this column works by poets and philosophers. That is simply because I find therein beauty and inspiration. But one can experience these artistic feelings elsewhere too. I happened to watch a documentary on the PBS yesterday entitled `Hoop Dreams'. As everybody in the US is aware of, basketball is quintessentially American in its character and national in its scope. Every community in the country has a basketball court where people of all ages gather to take a few shots. In rare cases, the game is also a passport to riches and fame. However, out of the millions of boys, particularly of African origin, who start dribbling the ball from a very young age, few end up in the professional ranks of the NBA. The documentary film is a chronicle of two such boys, Arthur Agee and William Gates, in the inner city of Chicago. It took seven years of constant quest and dour dedication to produce the film. What is strictly basketball in the film may be extrapolated to other avocations also. After all, many of us dreaming of Nobel prizes realise in the end that we are good scientists, but never great scientists. But the mystery in life is in trying and not in giving up. As Chandrasekhar once remarked: `...who amongst us can hope, even in imagination, to scale the Everest and reach its summit when the sky is blue and the air is still, and in the stillness of air survey the entire Himalayan range in the dazzling white of the snow stretching to infinity? None of us can hope for a comparable vision of nature and of the universe around us. But there is nothing mean or lowly in standing in the valley below and awaiting the sun to rise over Kanchenjunga.'

Arthur and William enter the private Catholic High School of St. Joseph's on a basketball scholarship. William has more talent and plays on the varsity team even in his first year whereas Arthur plays for the school's second team. It seems the Detroit Pistons idol, Isiah Thomas, played for that very school. Arthur chooses Isiah's number 11 for himself. During the second year, Arthur could not raise extra money for his school fees and was forced to transfer to an inner city public school (Marshall High School). William experiences knee injury and undergoes surgery. His second year, with constant pain in his leg, becomes almost a washout. Arthur too had to adjust to his new school and surroundings. In their junior year, both come to terms with their basketball. Their dedication to the game and the endless practice sessions take their own toll on their academics. Both perform far below their grade levels.

Om s'aantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao