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Ray Romano Somewhere in Queens and Sports Parenting

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TeaThe loving father swelled with hope and pride as soon as his son grabbed the rebound with six seconds left. His high school was only trailing by one point, meaning he now had a chance to win the game, to complete an improbable comeback. A win meant that Son’s high school career would continue, at least for one more game. But with one loss, basketball would be over. The son, a senior, was not good enough to play at the college level. So it can happen—for both of them.

So Dad, better than anyone, knew the stakes of those last six seconds. Son passed the ball to the team’s star guard, who pushed the ball to the floor, and pulled up for a shot near the top of the key, perhaps slightly to the left. The ball, however, hit the rim. Game over. Career over. The father spent endless hours with his son, playing in the backyard, traveling to games, living and dying with every jump from infancy to adulthood, with the boy now a 6’5″ boy on the verge of adulthood – the finish. in a flash.

Ray Romano remembers this moment as one he could describe in minute detail. Amazingly, this isn’t a scene from his new movie, Somewhere in Queens It happens to tell the story of a father, played by Joe Romano, who is facing the impending conclusion of his star son’s high school basketball career. ,somewhere in queens Hits theaters April 21.) No, Romano is discussing an incident from seven years ago, 2016; his son’s final high school game, Who, A key player for Campbell Hall School in Los Angeles that season. Like so many parents, Romano was deeply invested in her child’s sports career. “Yeah, it’s all about him, and your pride for him,” Romano said in his familiar New York City accent — he’s from Queens — in a telephone interview Friday morning. “But it’s also part of who you are.”

That last game—and the ensuing emptiness Romano felt when Joe’s athletic endeavors ended—inspired somewhere in queens, which Romano co-wrote and directed, marking his directorial debut. Romano also stars in the film as a slightly humble, awkward construction worker named Leo Russo, who has the nickname “Stix” (Jacob Ward) in addition to his son’s basketball exploits. The always stellar Laurie Metcalf plays Russo’s no-nonsense wife Angela while still a comedian Sebastian Maniscalco Russo’s bully younger brother, Frank, and Sadie Stanley shines as Stix’s spitfire girlfriend, Dani Brooks.

Youth sports provide rich territory for storytelling. The core complexities involved, such as living vicariously through your children and mismatched levels of investment—fathers want titles more than juniors—are more universal than one might think. Millions of parents around the world, especially in the competition-obsessed America, will face the day their children play their final game. For some, this may be in Little League or later in grade school. For others, it may be in second year – he won’t make it to university – or senior year – he isn’t good enough for a spot at the next level.

For a precious few, that moment occurs in college, or perhaps in the pros. But no matter the sport the kids play, or the level of excellence they reach, all parents must grapple with the inevitable: that moment, and the days and years that follow, when the cheering stops.

Parenting handbooks and pop psychologists will tell you: Don’t live vicariously through your kids’ activities, athletic or otherwise. Romano admitted that he had violated this unwritten rule. “With every game, I was cheering for him,” says Romano. “But if I’m being completely honest, I kind of liked it for myself. I was proud of that, but the parental attention also came down. I mean, it’s hard to deny.

Romano enjoys a compliment from Joe’s high school coach after he scores a ton in a game. He used to get attention from the other parents in the stands—even the protesting parents—because of Joe’s success. “You try to be polite about it, but it feels good,” Romano says. Despite other similarities, Romano admits that one moment in the film was not based on his real experience. Romano’s character, Leo Russo, “Mr.” Rousseau! Mr. Russo! From fans in the high school gym, where his son is the star player. There were no “Ray Romano” cheers at Campbell Hall.

Still, the irony of Ray Romano’s longing from the SoCal high school basketball circle isn’t lost on the man who starred in the wildly successful sitcom everybody Loves Raymond, “I think it’s pathetic and selfish of me, I mean I’m on TV,” he laughs. “I have my own show. I stand in front of a theater of people. And that’s not enough? Now I’m going to miss out on the attention I get at a gym?”

He’s not apologizing for reveling in Joe’s basketball. “I don’t think anyone needs to feel guilty about it,” Romano says. “What you can’t do is decide how you treat your son. It’s a difficult balance. You want to push him a little bit but you want to do it for the right reasons. You want to do it in a certain way.” wants to do within limits because at some point, it must be what he wants to do.

Romano was shocked by how Joe’s last game left him emotionally cold. When he hugged Joe’s coach on the court after that final game in 2016, Romano’s first memory of him was Joe playing Pee-wee ball. “My friend, my neighbor, was his coach,” Romano says. “And I always have this image of him running on defense, this little guy with skinny legs, and I see him on the floor where my friend told him he’s supposed to line up as a forward. . And he ran down and he looked down and he put his feet right there. And he put his hands up. From your kid’s pee to a 6’5″ high school kid who just played his last game That’s a lot for any parent. It shocked me,” says Romano.

Romano drew on these emotions to recreate the film’s most affecting scene: Russo standing in an empty gym after Stix took his final high school shot, staring gloomily at a barren high school basketball court. . It speaks to the emptiness the character feels inside. (Full disclosure: My son is a high school basketball player, a junior, and I may face such sadness less than a year from now. I’m not looking forward to it.)

Romano says, “It’s funny you mentioned that scene because it’s a scene where I see my co-writer, I recover, it’s not very realistic, because the gym doesn’t clean up fast enough.” Is.”

She’s absolutely right: Parents and friends are always lurking on the court right after the high school buzzer. Romano offers another small silver lining: The parent’s pain finally goes away. “You just accept it,” says Romano.

somewhere in queens Stick concerns the unexpected opportunities that arise for Russo after that last game: and how Leo Russo, with sympathetic intentions, becomes too involved in his son’s life. Joe Romano’s story is less ripe for cinematic conflict. Now 25, he played some college ball: At Oregon, he was part of a group of male players who practiced against a women’s team, a common practice at major women’s programs. But he’s trying something new: “He’s dipping his toe into the world of acting,” says Romano. “That scares me more than anything.” Trying to make it into the NBA is tough enough. “It’s like trying to be a successful actor,” says Romano.

Romano says, “My character in the movie and to some extent what I had to accept and understand, are you going to be proud of that.” “And you’re going to shine through that. No matter what he does. It doesn’t have to be sports. If he’s happy and successful, even if he’s a good parent, making him a basket Looks just as good. It doesn’t feel like it. No one will be there to cheer. But you will hear the cheers internally.

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write to Sean Gregory at [email protected].