05:50:44 pm on
Monday 19 Oct 2020

Counting Steamboats
David Simmonds

I don’t know about you, but when I am playing a playground game like hide-and-go-seek, which goes back many years, I count seconds in terms of steamboats. One steamboat, two steamboats, three steamboats and so forth.

Steamboats on the basketball court.

The Toronto Raptors prevailed over the Boston Celtics in game three of their National Basketball Association (NBA) conference semi-final. Kyle Lowry flinging the game ball all the way across the court and then OG Anunoby sunk a long-distance jump shot, all with half a second left on the clock, left me excited but bemused. How did they manage to do it in the short amount of time it takes me to say one steamboat and not much more.

I dove into the official NBA rule book to find an answer. There I discovered that after a time out is taken, as the Raptors did, a throw-in takes place at the sideline in the offensive court, not from the backline under the basket in the defensive court. Time is started again not when the sideline thrower is handed the ball by the referee and not when the ball leaves the thrower’s hands, but only when the ball is touched by a player on the court receiving the throw.

Once the on-court receiver has the ball and taken a shot before time expires, time is extended until the basket is made or fails. This happens even though the game ending buzzer sounds before the basket is made. In other words, the half second left on the clock only ran from the moment the ball entered the hands of Anunoby and until it left them as he took his long distance shot: the throw-in time and the shot-in-flight time didn’t count.

Mystery thus solved.

That shouldn’t detract from the size of the accomplishment. The fact that Anunoby was able to catch the ball and make the shot during a one steamboat interval is pretty amazing, as is the fact Lowry was able to toss the ball to him so accurately all the way across the court with a seven foot tall player standing in his way trying to block or deflect the throw-in. The play was perfect on both counts.

The shot joins what is now the pantheon of buzzer beater winners for the Raptors. The other is the legendary game seven bouncing-on-the-rim-into-the-basket shot by Kawhi Leonard to beat Philadelphia in their 2019 playoff series. That shot helped the team to the NBA championship that year.

I have been holding something back. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s part of my therapy to share it. I didn’t watch the final half second of the basketball game I’ve just been talking about.

So confident was I that nothing could be done in that “one steamboat …” half second span that I turned my television off. I thus deprived myself of the pleasure of watching the team snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, something the sports fan normally lives for.

Worse than that, I also sent the world a broadcast message that I am an unreliable supporting partner. I will be by your side until the outcome is seemingly inevitable, but not until Yogi Berra officially declares it is over. What would have been so difficult about taking an extra couple of minutes of my life to see the game through to its conclusion?

My loyalty would been rewarded by seeing the miracle victory. I would have kept faith with the team. My lack of steadfastness haunts me; I can’t even be a good lazy person.

I won’t abandon the Raptors again.

With the Raptors coming out flat and losing on Monday, they need to win the next two games, scheduled for that tonight and the following Saturday, to keep their championship hopes alive. I think I’ve learned my lesson. If I can bring myself to watch the games, you can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t abandon the Raptors until all the steamboats have left the building. That is, if they’ll let me watch them play.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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