Tell me, does it
get sweeter than this? The big handsome kid gliding to the glass in warmup
drills, that's your son. He's the best high school player in the city. One look
at the visitors, who've come from 40 miles away, tells you all you need to
know: He's the best player in the house tonight.
Better still, your
two brothers are in town, right beside you. All three of you grew up together
on a basketball court. All three of you were starters on the same team. You can
see it on their faces. They're reliving it too.
in, it seems, calls or waves to you, the friendly father of the star. Your kid
looks up and gives the slightest nod. He's dedicating this game to your side of
the family. Got to love that too.
You all rise for
The Star-Spangled Banner. Then your son and the other team's big man crouch at
midcourt for the tap. Your eyes, like your brothers', like your son's, lock on
the basketball. As if you owed your lives to that thing. Which all four of you
something else going on here. The kid's dedicating this game to your sister—his
aunt, Suzanne—who just died of colon cancer. No, not a pretty way to die, but
more dignified than face-down in the mud on the edge of a South American
jungle, like your mother, father, wife, unborn child, two brothers, a sister,
four nephews and a niece.
None of you here
tonight should exist. Not you, Jim Jones Jr., the one who carries that name.
Not your brother Stephan, the one who carries that blood. Not your brother Tim,
the one who carries the visual memory of your relatives and friends among the
910 bloated bodies lying shoulder-to-shoulder, the largest mass suicide in
And no, not your
son down there, the Reverend Jim Jones's grandson.
You were spared
that day: Saturday, Nov. 18, 1978. You, Stephan and Tim were teenagers, 150
miles away, playing against Guyana's national basketball team. You were saved
by this sport.
But then ... if
you hadn't been away that day, maybe you could've stopped it. Maybe you'd have
stood up to your father when he ordered everyone in the Peoples Temple to drink
the cyanide-laced powdered grape punch in Jonestown, Guyana. Maybe you could've
saved your family, saved everyone. You were cursed by this sport.
HIS SON controls
the tap. Archbishop Riordan High begins to run a play. Jim Jones Jr. looks
around the gym. This is the last place he dreamed he'd be in his mid-40s, in
December 2006. This is the last sport his child was supposed to play.