It’s 1:30 a.m. and the house is quiet.
Your alarm wakes you with a jolt and you scramble to turn it off before it wakes your partner sleeping beside you. You put on some soft slippers and silently slide into the next room where your children are sleeping. You watch them sleep, so peaceful, so innocent. It’s almost painful to wake them from their much-needed sleep. But you all agreed to this, you all know the plan. The anger that would follow once they find out that you didn’t follow through would be worse than the momentarily mental pain of waking a sleeping kid.
But wake them you must. “Psssst. It’s basketball time.”
I’ve been doing this same dance since I was a teenaged sports fan myself. Sometimes there are events that you really want to see happening across the globe and you can’t wait until morning to watch a recording or find out what happened, so you get up in the middle of the night to tune in. The Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup are two events that have been wrecking my sleep for decades, as have countless other random championships, typically if Team Canada is trying to pull off a big win.
It’s a dangerous game. Sometimes you might crawl out of bed at 3 a.m. just to watch your team lose a must-win game. Actually, if you’ve followed various Team Canadas in various sports over the years, saying that they will “sometimes” ruin your day before the sun rises is an understatement. Uh oh, it’s 6 a.m., you’ve just had your heart broken and now you get to be tired and sad all day.
But sometimes it’s magical. You’re in your own little wee hours world, quietly living and dying on every play. Your snoozing neighbours have no idea of the drama they’re missing, the golden goal that got you so excited that you did a handspring onto the couch and then let out the world’s loudest silent scream.
Others have no doubt experienced this same kind of quiet entertainment from other avenues of life, royal weddings and such happening half a world away. I feel both pride and worry that I have now brought my own two children into this world. Last week we hit both extremes during the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Early in the tournament Canada scored some huge wins at respectable hours, at least for us basketball nuts watching in the Vancouver time zone. That included an 88-85 win over Spain – 6:30 a.m. tipoff over here – that saw Canada erase a big deficit late in the game to earn a berth in the quarterfinals while also securing a berth in the Olympic basketball tournament for the first time since 2000.
In the final two games of the tournament for Canada, both beginning at 1:30 a.m. here, we got a taste of the joy and pain of dead-of-night drama. First, the pain. In a semifinal matchup against Serbia, my older boy and I (the younger was furious we didn’t wake him) quietly watched Canada’s chance at gold slip away, with the Serbs scoring a 95-86 win to earn a berth in the final. We slunk back to bed at 4 a.m., questioning our life decisions.
A couple of days later we feared the worst in a bronze medal match against the all-powerful U.S.A. squad, but my younger insisted we watch (the older skipped this one, a busy day ahead). At this point I have to admit that when I say I got up to watch these games, I mean I moved my body in front of the TV on the couch and then slept through most of the games. I mean … it’s 2:30 a.m.! I’m not a young man anymore.
But my kid was up all the way. “You should open your eyes, daddy.”
“We’re doing well daddy.”
I stirred to see us pull away near the end of the fourth quarter, only to have the U.S. team pull off a miracle play – missing a free throw on purpose, getting the rebound and hitting a three – to send the game into overtime. From then on I was wide awake as Canada calmly and cooly dispatched the world superpower to claim the team’s first ever FIBA Basketball World Cup medal. We silently went nuts together watching it all unfold.
I can’t say for certain that it’s worth the headaches, literal ones I mean, that often come with missing that sleep. But that quiet glee that my boy and I shared was something I won’t soon forget.
Andy Prest is the editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.