Chauncey Billups Isn’t Real

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As a child, I feared nothing. And I was going to be anything I wanted. No limits.
As a child, I feared nothing. And I was going to be anything I wanted. No limits.

I wanted to go to outer space.

Fly in space shuttles. Eat shitty space ice cream. Play on the moon. Colonize Mars.

I wanted to be an astronaut.

I grew up very close to the hometown of Neil Armstrong where they have an air and space museum named in honor of the first human being to set foot on the moon.

I had a lot of space books. I was always fascinated by the size and scope of Saturn. Jupiter. The Sun.

Our solar system is ridiculously awesome. And I wanted to see it all. I read a lot of little-kid space books growing up. I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger explode live on national television with a bunch of other kids in an elementary school gymnasium in first grade.

And STILL, I wanted to go out there. Unfazed.

I was young. Hopeful. Ambitious.

There were no limits. No restrictions on my dreams.

I was fearless.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t genius enough to know astrophysics.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t know anything about aviation. Or engineering. Or advanced mathematics.

I was too ignorant to be scared of the dangers of shuttle launches. About how harsh and unpleasant the environments of every known non-terrestrial place actually is. To concern myself with the amount of time necessary to traverse the solar system.

Being a kid is amazing.

Who cares that I was never actually going to be an astronaut?

I wanted to be one. I believed I could be one. And I was happy.

Isn’t that all we really want? Happiness?

Of course it is.

Kids are our role models.

The ones that don’t know ANYTHING about limitations. Like my five-year-old son.

There are some lessons to be learned from their unbridled belief in what we might call the impossible.

The Death of a Basketball Star 

There’s only one problem with the mind of a five-year-old to whom facts don’t matter.

They sometimes use their no-limit superpowers to challenge truth. Conventional wisdom. Irrefutable proof.

My son’s godfather is one of my dearest childhood friends. An attorney who took care of all the legal work for my divorce hearing.

He has three daughters. They all have very pretty, relatively typical girl names.

But he doesn’t always call them by their names.

He calls them Frank. Or Rick. Or G.S. (an abbreviation for ‘gutter slut’).

It sounds approximately like this:

Daughter: “Daddy?”

Her father: “Yes, Rick?”

Daughter: “[Sister’s name] is taking all the dresses and doing something bad to them.”

Her father: “Hey! Frank! Stop being a little G.S.!”

This sort of thing makes me laugh and is consistent with the types of immature things we’ve been laughing about for close to 30 years.

Over the past few years or so, I’ve taken to calling people Chauncey. Or Chauncey Billups.

Billups is a five-time NBA All-Star point guard who has literally played for 25 percent of the NBA teams, but is most well-known for playing with the Detroit Pistons who he led to an NBA championship in 2004, winning MVP of the NBA Finals.

I like his name. Calling someone a Chauncey just feels so… organic. I do it a lot. I did it this morning to a driver who didn’t use his turn signal right after displaying total suckage at all other facets of motor-vehicle operation.

I call my son “Chauncey” or “Chauncey Billups” several times per week.

About a month ago, my son started saying “Chauncey Billups isn’t real!” every time I called him that.

I tried in vain to explain that, yes, Chauncey Billups is actually real. He’s a basketball player. In his prime, a pretty darn good one. And that he is a very real person. I showed him photos.

Doesn’t matter.

He’s five.

Facts don’t matter.

He can be anyone. Do anything. Create any reality.

Chauncey Billups isn’t real.

And Sometimes They’re Just Cute

I spent the past week writing down all of the things that kid said to me that made me laugh, just because.

Here are the highlights:

Me: “Good God, you smell like poop.”

Him: “That’s because I just went poop, dude.”

He grabbed a little toy. A little robot guy that can transform into a ball. He named him “Bowler” a couple years ago, and the name stuck.

“Hey Dad! Watch how fast Bowler is!” *does some rad fly-by move with Bowler and makes a whooshing noise* “He’s so fast he can fly through metal. He can fly through iron. NOTHING can cut through iron. Not even a pick ax. Right, Dad?”

We were eating Cleveland Indians peanuts on the deck off the back of the house. He loves cracking the shells as opposed to eating peanuts from a jar.

He said, “These are the best nuts. Are they the best nuts in your life, Dad?”

Then we were discussing our favorite sports teams. Basically all of the Cleveland sports teams because we hate happiness, apparently. The Browns in football. The Cavaliers in basketball. The Indians in baseball.

“You know who my favorite soccer team is?” he said.

“No,” I said.


“Tommy’s? Your friend at school?”

“Yeah. He’s the fastest runner in the whole school. I promise. He told me.”

He and I were practicing letters and reading one morning last week before work and school. Picking out words we could find on various objects. I have a fitness ball in my bedroom that I don’t spend enough time on. The brand is PURE.

“Hey, dude. Do you know what this says?” I said.

“P-U-R-E. That spells ‘exercise,’” he said.

He and I were watching a National Geographic special about dangerous reptiles. There was a segment about crocodiles.

“Hey, Dad. Saltwater crocs are cool. They can go in saltwater AND regular water.

“They can go in hot water AND cold water.

“They can go in any kind of water.”

He brought home a book from his school library titled Why Do Snakes Hiss?.

He pointed to the question mark in the title.

“Look, Dad! A mystery mark.”

“You mean, a question mark?”

“No. It’s a mystery mark.”

“Oh. You guys must call them that at school. That’s cool. But sometimes it’s called a question mark, buddy. It’s the symbol you write when you’re asking a question.”

He looked at me like I was the biggest dipshit on Earth.

“It’s a mystery mark.”

“Daddy’s a writer. I know about things like this.”

“Oh yeah? Well I can spell every color,” he said.

“Fine. Call it a mystery mark. You don’t have to be a little Chauncey about it.”

“Chauncey Billups isn’t real.”

Totally real.
Totally real.

13 thoughts on “Chauncey Billups Isn’t Real”

  1. This made me laugh! My mom used to buy Erik those plastic educational placemats and there was one with all the presidents on it. At some point G started calling Erik for no apparent reason Chester A. Arthur. He would get home from work and say “How’s my main man, Chester A. Arthur?” etc So at last year’s school musical Erik had put in the flyer with everyone’s picture and mini-bio “I want to shout out to my main man, Chester A. Arthur.” Geoff asked me “What does that mean?” I said “Because you used to call him that!” He had forgotten. But Erik hadn’t. =)
    Best nuts of your life…..And they were, weren’t they?

    1. That’s funny! That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

      The nuts really were spectacular. *makes the just-bit-into-sour-lemon face*

  2. Owen is a hoot! I love funny nicknames like that. I call my niece “Aggie Bocce” after a TV personality’s name (Anna Bocce) she used to mispronounce as a child. I call my nephew K-bop for no reason at all other than that I called him that one day and it stuck. My dog was Mr. Otis Stinky Pants McGee.

    Thanks for the post…made me smile. 🙂

  3. This is my rare chance for sports geekery: I saw Chauncey Billups play as a high school freshman. A co-worker of mine, an assistant coach with that team, said I had to see him. He was going to be a star. So, Owen, he’s real and has been real for a long time!

    1. Yeah! He’s from Colorado. That’s right.

      Cool story. He’s a fine basketball player. I’ve always liked him.

      But mostly, I’ve just liked his name.

      1. If it weren’t for the name, I wouldn’t have remembered him so easily when, later on, he was a local college star and then every-team pro. The last name is good, but the first name, even better.

    1. I honestly was at least 12 before I thought I was smarter than my parents. I’m in trouble.

      Thanks for the note. I’m so glad you’re still reading.

    1. That, he is. I’m very blessed to have him.

      I’m always looking for a lesson. I think the happiness and peace that children feel is in large part due to their unquestioning faith that they can be whatever they want to be.

      We spend a lot of time in adulthood telling ourselves and others why we can’t do something. Always looking for a way to not take the risk. To not fail.

      I’m so happy that I have someone in my life to remind me we needn’t limit our dreams as adults.

      That the sky, and beyond, can still be the limit.

      I’m going to continue to work on that.

      I appreciate you reading, this nice note, and your willingness to follow along. Thank you so much.

      1. It’s amazing how much our kids can teach us, if we just pay attention, isn’t it? I think one of the best lessons of all is to just have fun doing whatever the hell we’re doing. 🙂

        Thanks for writing. 😀

  4. Omg. I totally read this and here we are in the thick of team loyalty battles!!! I love when junk like this happens. …not to mention someone’s special day is coming up, too! Double whammy. (I like to make things bigger than they really are to add wonderment to the world).

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Matt Fray

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