By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Frank Owen
"It's an absolute shame that things come to that," she says. "But what we're doing is denying a group of people their fundamental right to have a family."
It's raining and dark outside the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Miami. But inside, the place is cooking. The score is tied, and it's halfway through the third quarter when one father's voice from the back bleacher is heard above all other parents'.
"Oscar, steal it! That's right, yes! Take it away and to the hoop, yes, yes, yes.... Arghhhhh!"
Houton is sitting cross-legged in his green scrubs with a wrinkled brow. "Did you see that? It was so close. He's having an off night. I mean, he gets nervous when people are watching him."
Avila nods and pulls his baseball hat down slightly, intently watching a pair of knobby, ten-year-old legs topped off by a black, number 8 jersey scurry down the hard wood. Oscar looks up at both of them and smiles widely.
The score is excruciatingly close. Parents are holding their breath as Oscar, with three seconds on the clock, heaves the ball from around the free-throw line. The collective moan from the bleachers resonates throughout the gym as the ball taps the rim. It's 29 to 27 at the final buzzer. Oscar bows his head and digs his Nikes into the floor. They lost. But in less than ten seconds, he and his teammates are making funny faces and slouching toward the post-game handshake line.
Houton turns to Avila to debate whether to order pizza tonight. Like the other parents, they watch the coaches line up the kids for more drills. Houton grows impatient, huffing that it's already 8:30 and Oscar still has homework to do. The two also have to walk the family dog, a nightly ritual. But the children are getting a post-losing-game speech from their coach, who seems to be bucking up their spirits. "He'll be fine," Houton says, assuring himself aloud about his son's first experience with losing.
He's right. There seems enough determination between them to defeat any of their challengers. Unfortunately, federal courts and shortsighted legislators play tough defense.