As a kid growing up in the Portland area in the early 90’s I loved everything about the Portland Trailblazers. Playing basketball in my neighborhood, my friends and I would imagine that we were Portland Trailblazers. We even went as far as to designate which player we were. I was usually Jerome Kersey or Clyde Drexler. I remember my mom scolding me for digging my grubby hands into the very bottom of a brand new loaf of Franz bread, in search of the next Blazers trading card to add to my collection. Like so many Blazers fans the voice of Bill Schonely became as familiar as that of a close friend. His catch phrases “Bingo, Bango, Bongo” and “Rip City” are now written into the local dialect. One of Bill Schonely’s great exhortations was “You’ve got to make your free throws.”
In basketball a free throw is an opportunity to take an uncontested shot from 15 feet away from the basket. There is nothing complicated about a free throw. Just you and the basket. And a heart beating out of your chest. And opposing fans screaming for you to miss, while your teammates and fans silently beseech you to make it. Games can be won or lost at the free throw line. Difficult? Maybe. Complicated? No.
Every day we have opportunities to make our free throws. There are four things that we all experience that are the everyday equivalent of free throws: diet, exercise, sleep and social support. These components of our lives can be so simple that we overlook their impact. We may understand that these things are important, but do we take the time to practice and improve them? Just like when the Blazers play a road game where thousands of opposing, screaming fans do anything they can to distract the good guys from their goal, so the rest of us have thousands of distractions that can keep us from making our free throws. Are you making yours?
In the weeks to come I will unpack some of the impact that diet, exercise, sleep and social support can have on our wellbeing. Until then I will keep working on my free throws. I definitely miss my fair share, but I am practicing. I think Bill Schonely would be proud.