I’m So Much More Than An NCAA Hoops Star — I’m A Scuba Detective Hunting For My Long Lost Father

Rachel Paige
Mar 17 · 3 min read
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

“There are about 460,000 student-athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports.” — that NCAA-sponsored commercial that’s played every year during March Madness since 2011

As an NCAA Division I student-athlete, I know my time on top of the sports food chain is limited. March Madness is my time to shine, but what happens after the madness fades? Sure, I’m an all-star basketball player, but that’s not all that defines me.

I’m a son to my father. I’m a brother to my sister. I’m an uncle to whatever I’m supposed to call Toby (Nephew? Cousin? Hell, sometimes I call him “asshole” when he won’t change the channel from Spongebob Squarepants for the fourth hour in a row).

Still think I’m just a big ‘ol beefcake with rocks for brains? Think again, dummy.

I’m a Subway sandwich artist. I’m an Apple genius. I’m a junior volunteer detective at the Springfield Police Department and when I’m not sinking threes, I spend my time feverishly searching for my father. He’s been missing since his scuba diving accident in the Mississippi River in 2004. No forensic evidence.

Sixteen years ago…and not a lick of forensic evidence. Yeah…I wish I was joking.

You still think I’m a muscled up cyborg, trained to rebound and slap the blood flow out of my teammate’s palms when they score?

If only you knew.

I’m a Starbucks Gold Card Member. I’m a Sephora Beauty Insider. I’m the last person my father called before he went on that fateful night dive in the Mississippi, searching for a real-life flounder in swim trunks after seeing one while watching Spongebob Squarepants with my repulsive nephew, Toby. I was too busy nailing the game-winning jumper against Penn State to answer my phone.

I will never forgive myself for not answering that call.

And let me guess — you still think I care about basketball and nothing else?

God, I’ll bet you feel like a real dingus.

I’m a PADI-Qualified Rescue Scuba Diver. I’m eight credit hours away from completing my Master’s in Forensic Psychology. I’m destroying my personal relationships by obsessing over the mysterious disappearance — not death, as far as I’m concerned — of my father. I’m standing on the free-throw line, two seconds left on the clock, my team down by one, and all I can think about is the depths of the Mississippi that hold the answer to the most important question of my life.

Do you know what it’s like to associate “March Madness” with the month-long period where I couldn’t see colors because of anxiety related to my father’s fateful scuba diving disappearance? Do you know what it’s like to confuse a full blender bottle of rye whiskey for a protein shake, puke on your coach’s family after a game and then also have to suffer through the effects of not getting enough protein?

Why was a body never recovered? Why is a local police force allowed to say “enough is enough” when the case hasn’t been solved? Unless I’m lightheaded and nauseous from 40 straight minutes of grinding on the guy I’m boxing out in the paint, I can think of nothing else.

Shouldn’t I be upset with my father? He’s a grown man who went scuba diving at two in the morning, legitimately looking for something he saw on a children’s cartoon, egged on by my shit nephew Toby. Why can’t I let him go? Why can’t I come to terms with the fact that, if it wasn’t this that killed him, it probably would’ve been something else frustratingly preventable?

I will never forgive myself for not answering that call.

I’m more than a basketball player. And, hell, I’m even more than a kid looking for what’s left of his father. I’m also a kid who’s looking at every hot air balloon that passes over me, ’cause my mom got in one of those suckers ten years ago, and we haven’t seen her since.

Rachel Paige

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One time I won Sara Bareilles tickets and they were in the front row of the United Center (where the Bulls play!) and I knew only 3 songs but it was the best ni

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