They call golf The Loneliest Game, but they clearly haven't driven along state Highway 7 between Camden and Sparkman. That's where we saw, after mile upon mile of country driving, coming out of, yes, nowhere, a lone basketball goal. It looked almost brand new, standing NBA-straight on a patch of green, freshly mowed grass.
Nobody was playing. Nobody was around. There was a house nearby, but nobody there. We figured pick-up games were less pick-up than organized events. More likely, the lone goal was for a lone practitioner of America's inner-city sport, a street game supposedly made for school playgrounds and school gyms.
We imagined some young Pete Maravich practicing for hours on that goal. Shoot. Retrieve. Shoot. Retrieve. And we thought about the loneliness of the long distance runner, the golfer, the swimmer, the anybody-athlete or scholar, artist or artisan - who strives to be the best. Excellence can be a lonely pursuit.
Once upon a time we threw a tennis ball against a little brick ledge over the garage door, hoping to hit the ledge at just the right angle so it flew up, up - a fly ball instead of a grounder. We pitched it again and again ... till the afternoon was over.
Now, whenever we sit down to write, all alone again, this time with an intimidating blank screen staring at us and a head full of disorganized thoughts, we think about that lone basketball goal. And we rear back ... and shoot.
- The (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette