I blew it with Emma on Wednesday night.

I promised her while we were at the Missouri Southern basketball game that we would stop and see the MSSC lion.

In Emma's eyes, my promise was more like a lie in that we didn't, technically speaking, come anywhere near the lion because I was sort of busy during the game, and for that I blame Robert Corn.

Corn is the MSSC men's basketball coach, and he chose my wife to be the team's honorary coach for Wednesday's game.

Never mind the fact that, based on experience, if anyone in our family should get to sit on the MSSC bench during the game it should be me. I don't like to brag, but several years ago there was a movement at my old high school to have a spot on the basketball bench named in my honor. To this day I hold the school record for falling asleep in that spot four times in one game. Of course, it was a double overtime game and I had been up late the night before, but, hey, a record's a record.

Because my wife got to sit on the bench with the team, I was left to try and watch both the game and Emma at the same time. Trying to watch a basketball game with a 5-year-old is like trying to watch a squirrel-fight with a border collie.

Emma was fine during the women's game, but when my wife had to leave for the men's game things went south.

What happened was that suddenly I was forced to change my defensive strategy.

Normally, when my wife and I are both with Emma, we have a variety of options. We can double-team her, we can play man-to-man, we can drop back into a zone, we can trap, we can even put together a full-court press.

Of course, even then we know that we can never truly stop her, we only try to contain her.

The problem I had Wednesday was that I was pretty much stuck with playing man-to-man and Emma knew it, so she devised an offense to take advantage of my weakness.

Her plan was simple. Do as many annoying things as she possibly could, knowing that she would pretty much have to pull a gun on me to get me to stop watching the game.

I tend to make concessions when I'm trying to watch basketball with Emma. For example, normally my wife and I try to make sure that Emma - for the most part - stays in the general vicinity of her seat.

Last Wednesday night, the only thing Emma used her seat for was to store the $359 worth of snacks that she conned me into buying between games.

I also sort of let Emma climb on me. She wanted me to hold her up "like a boy cheerleader" so during every timeout, when the cheerleaders would come onto the floor, Emma would stand up on my lap and jump up and down while I held her legs and tried to keep her from either falling off my lap or from sending me to the emergency room with tennis shoe imprints on - to use a medical term - my you know what.

I also let Emma play the "run around game" during halftime. The run around game is a game in which Emma - follow me on this - runs around. I let Emma play the run around game in the hopes that she would run herself out of energy.

The plan didn't work.

Me: Emma come here.

Emma: Race me Daddy.

Me: OK.

Emma: Race me again.

Me: OK.

Emma: One more time.

Me: O... (thud)

Stranger: Does anyone know CPR?

Some day, of course, Emma will grow to love going to basketball games with me.

She'll sit with me and I'll tell her about that time that Jim Westerhaus, my basketball coach at St. Xavier's High School, came up to me during the big game against our arch rivals from Clyde Kan.

"We need you Mark," he said. "Here are the keys, go warm up the bus."

Address correspondence to Mike Pound, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, Mo. 64802.

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