Friday, April 17, 2009

the sixth man

At first glance, Travis Outlaw might escape your attention.

The charming Portland Trailblazers Forward and sixth man off the bench often comes across as shy and diffident. The bashful basketball player, who hails from the Deep South, is unassuming in front of a microphone. Drafted right out of high school, Travis hasn’t yet found a way to conceal his emotions. It only adds to his appeal.

We can always tell when Coach Nate has given Trav a bad time. TO’s eyes widen and as the young man dips his head down into his jersey, his face tells the tale of a kid in trouble with dad- again.

And we can also tell when Catfish, as teammates call him, is happy. Leaping off the bench, the sixth man comes to life when needed- and never disappoints. Travis springs from the bench with an energy that NBA fans need to see; an energy that’s sadly lacking in some of our most revered basketball stars today.

Quietly moving through games with extreme elegance and grace, Travis is comfortable and confident in his role as the sixth man. In fact that’s a good way to describe him- because he seems inspired by a quiet confidence.

As we move into 40 Days and 40 Nights, almost all eyes will be on the star power of the Portland Trail Blazers: the powerful Greg Oden, strong-willed Steve Blake, dashing LaMarcus Aldridge, graceful Rudy Fernandez and the eloquent Brandon Roy.

But for some of us, the game won’t really begin, until the sixth man enters.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

the line

“We have to move quickly,” he said nervously. I glanced over to see the sweat beginning to bead along his brow. Red-faced and perspiring, panic was quickly settling in. Clearly, it wouldn’t be long before his oncoming dread took him over.

“It’s fine,” I said cautiously. “Just try to relax.”

“I can’t, I can’t,” he mumbled, fear tumbling over. “We have to go now. If we don’t go now- You go, and I’ll finish up here.”

I could see him poised, getting ready to jump ship, and knew, I had to act quickly to keep him calm. To keep him from running away.

“It will be fine. Just relax.” But I worried, and looking around, I knew it wouldn’t be long before he left me. And then:

“I have to go. I have to leave. Please… Just go on without me.”

“I am not going to get in line. The last time I did that, you didn’t come back in time, and when you did show up, you didn’t have everything.”

“We have to go! Go now! Look at all of those people! They’re going to get in line right now! Just go. Please, please. Just go.”

Why do men think going to the grocery store is a form of torture?