Posted by Political Mammal
In December, I received a message from a clerk at the Supreme Court asking whether I could customize our Visual History of the Supreme Court as a present for a Justice. I was happy to do so, and delivered a special version to him in time for the holidays. Because of this, I recently got a chance to take a private tour of the Court. To be honest, my main curiosity about the Court building was not about the room where the Justices hear the arguments. I had had the good fortune of watching my brother-in-law argue a case there some years ago. Rather, I was really interested in seeing something I had read about, the basketball court on the top floor of the building. I really wanted a chance to take a shot at one of the hoops up there.
So I waited patiently through the mundane aspects of the tour, the marble, the statuary, the special chairs for the president and other visiting dignitaries, the decorated ceilings, the beautiful law library rendered somewhat obsolete by computers, the symbolic carvings, the portraits of former justices, and all the fancy rooms and corridors. The clerk was very poised and knowledgeable and I imagined him as a judge or elected official down the road. It was nice to see that my posters were still on sale at the gift shop. I asked the clerk how the court would rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, but he gave me no indication. He did say that the Justice was very happy with the print and that they had framed it nicely.
Finally we arrived at the basketball court, next to a weight room on the far less elegant, comparatively grungy top level of the building, and I felt more at home. Without seeking formal permission, I sought out a loose basketball, headed to the free throw line, and, though wearing my down coat, I took a shot.
I had years of preparation for that moment. I had often stayed after school in 2nd grade to play basketball on the cracked concrete court at Flatirons Elementary school in Boulder, Colorado. I played countless hours of one on one with my brother and three-on-three with the neighbor kids at the backyard court up my alley on 10th Street. As far as I know, I still hold the season record for highest free-throw shooting percentage in the after-school basketball league at my elementary school (9/12 or 75%). We had some makeshift hoops over the years in Vermont as well. And clutch free-throw shooting is apparently a family tradition. I remember my dad telling me that he won a free-throw shooting contest at his Brooklyn high school. My basketball preparation also included being a substitute my junior high school team and intramural play in high school, college, and graduate school, not to mention playing Sunday morning to this day with a fine group of increasingly long-in-the-tooth guys. Unfortunately I’ve been really struggling with my shot lately.
Anyhow, despite the intense pressure of the moment, I swished my shot.
My friend Mark, who accompanied me on the tour, is my witness.
So I now have a real claim to fame. A perfect shooting percentage at “the highest court in the land.”