January 2017


Dome and ball

Last week, in the lull between Christmas and New Year’s, J and I took a day-trip to Springfield, Massachusetts, where we visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Although many people think of baseball as being America’s pastime, I think basketball more truly deserves that honor. Invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a gym teacher who wanted an indoor game that could keep students at the YMCA Training School in Springfield occupied on rainy days, basketball is played by men and women of all ages across the United States and beyond. With nothing more than a peach basket, soccer ball, and thirteen simple rules, Naismith created a game with a now-global appeal.

James Naismith with his peach basket

On the drive to Springfield, J and I listed the reasons why basketball is our favorite sport. Basketball is interesting to watch at every level: whether you’re watching professional athletes in the NBA and WBNA, college amateurs, or schoolkids shooting one-on-one on the local playground, basketball is an engaging game. It’s an accessible sport: most schools and neighborhood playgrounds have basketball hoops, and if you live far from these, it’s easy to put a hoop on your garage or in your driveway. You can play basketball as part of a team, you can play one-on-one, or you can shoot hoops by yourself: all you need, really, is a ball and basket. And whereas other sports privilege particular body types, basketball players come in various shapes and sizes, from tall and skinny centers to short and speedy guards.

Bob Cousey can fly!

When I watch football or hockey, I can’t really imagine what it would be like to play those sports: I’m too small for the former and too klutzy for the latter. But even somebody short like me can learn the rudiments of shooting, passing, and dribbling: one of the pleasures of watching the NBA, in fact, is the glee of knowing even I can shoot free-throws better than some of the pros. Basketball is a team sport that leaves ample room for individual excellence, so there’s a certain joy that comes from watching a player who is on fire and in the zone, their shots tracing perfect trajectories and their footwork transcending the bounds of mere gravity.

In motion

Although the “Hoop Hall” in Springfield preserves objects reflecting the history and evolution of the game and its outstanding players, what I found most endearing was the basketball court on its first floor. While J and I started our visit on the third floor and worked our way down, admiring artifacts such as the game’s first shot clock and lots of enormous shoes worn by the pros, local children played on the court below us, shooting and dribbling and perfecting a game that for them isn’t about history; it’s a piece of the here and now.

Click here for more photos from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Enjoy!

Celtics' Big Three with random Bruins fans

Yesterday, J and I went to an afternoon Bruins game, but instead of taking scores of photos of the action on the ice, I took one photo in the concourse during intermission. Ever since the TD Garden added larger-than-life murals to its concourse walls, I’ve wanted to photograph the one that shows Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett in their glory days as the Celtics’ Big Three.  Yesterday, I walked by that mural right when the passing crowds parted, and I was able to snap a quick shot of a half dozen Bruins fans standing in front of the Big Three. With one photo, I captured a memory of yesterday’s Bruins game even though that photo doesn’t show any hockey: score.

Self portrait with discarded mirror

This year I’ve decided to pursue another 365-day photo challenge. In 2017, I’m setting a goal of taking and posting to Flickr at least one photo every day–365 photos in 365 days–just as I did in 2013 and 2015. I’m already in the habit of taking lots of photos, but I tend to take those photos in spurts: some days I take lots, and some days I take none. When I challenge myself to take and share a photo a day for an entire year, though, I can’t zone out for days and then make up for lost time when I feel inspired. Instead, I have to be on-the-lookout for interesting images every single day.

Newton Centre menorah

The 365-day photo challenge provides an interesting nudge to take lots of pictures: whether you feel inspired or not, you have to photograph and share something, which means you start treating your mundane life as a kind of visual scavenger hunt. But even more interesting is the way the 365-day photo challenge forces you to encapsulate a single day into a single, quintessential picture. Given all the things you did (and all the photos you took) on a given day, which one will you select as That Day’s photo?

Conspiring mannequins

When anyone else looks at one of my finished 365-day challenges, they see a bunch of random, unrelated photos. When I look at a year’s worth of photos I’ve taken, however, I’m reminded of the story behind each one. There are photos I love, photos I think are adequate but a bit boring, and photos I took out of sheer desperation. Viewed en masse, these images capture the incremental and random nature of our lives. Some days are interesting and others boring, but all days pass just the same.

Chocolate penguins

Ultimately, the 365-day photo challenge is a kind of spiritual practice, as it forces me to make an intentional commitment pay attention to the world around me every single day. Last year, I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do, and I also spent less time than usual writing and blogging. This year, I want to kick these creative pursuits into gear, and I know from past experience that the 365-day photo challenge is a gimmick so silly, it somehow works.

Of the photos illustrating today’s post, I took the first two yesterday and the rest today. The final photo of two L.A. Burdick chocolate penguins is today’s photo, and over the course of the year, I’ll be posting 364 more to this photo set. Enjoy, and happy New Year!

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