Last night, for the first time in 7 or so years, I played in a church league basketball game. It was just as bad as I’d remembered.
When I was in 11th grade, I played with a group of guys in this same league. We were mostly all soccer players, with some golfers and other non-athletes thrown in the mix as well. Most of us had never really played on a REAL competetive roundball team, and thus we didn’t know much about running plays or passing the ball or hitting free throws or anything technical like that. For us it was streetball with referees…which amounts to the worst combination of sorts. The other worst combination was putting a bunch of competitive athletes together on a team in a sport that none of them are really great at.
You see, athletes sort of feel like they should be the best at whatever sport they’re playing. This is why golf is frustrating for so many guys out there. You can’t just pick a club and whack the ball as hard as you want. Same goes for bball. You can’t just pick up a basketball and nail threes all day. Some member of our team was thrown out of every game it seemed, yours truly included (for, I believe, referring to the referee as a Nazi for his ridiculously strict calls). This is something that still ashames me to type. Please don’t judge…too harshly.
So as I walked into the gym last night that threw me out years ago all of these memories came flooding back. I tried to ignore it and put on my “I’ve completely matured in my college and early 20-something years and the Old Me wouldn’t even recognize the mature New Me” face. I was playing on a pretty bruised up ankle, but I wasn’t quite factoring that into the whole equation.
As I took the court, I threw up a perfectly acceptable jump shot that rattled in and out of the rim. Great…the rim hates me. I took the ball again down court and some guy on the other team stole it from me. Wonderful…my hands hate me. I try one more time…this time seeing a little seam in between two guys for me to pull out my favorite move: the jump step. To the naked eye, it looks like something that should be illegal in basketball. It looks like you’re walking or traveling, but if your feet hit at the same time, it’s perfectly legal. For someone as experienced as I am, it is a move that should be applauded by all those “in the know” in the basketball world. They should all look at each other and say with their eyes, “Wow…I didn’t know Bobby the soccer player knew how to do such an amazing move”. As I take the ball and make my move, the referee blows his whistle and calls traveling. Unbelievable…the ref hates me!
I turn to him and give a little shout. I think I’m kidding with him. I hope I am.
“Are you kidding me?! That’s a perfectly acceptable move! It’s called a Jump-Step or Pro-Step or Hop-Scotch or something! It’s proof that I know what I’m doing out here! How can you call that?! That’s ridiculous!”
The ref then strolls over to me from half court. Here I am, Old Me colliding with New Me. Everything’s changed? Nothing’s changed. I’m about to get thrown out again! The Zebra man looks at me and begins to speak. I’m ready to say, “You know what…I’m throwing myself out! You don’t even have to do it!” But he speaks softly and clearly.
“Hey, I know what you were trying to do…your feet just didn’t hit at the same time. That’s traveling. Sorry man.”
“Sorry man? Sorry man?! Why don’t you take your ‘Sorry Man’ back to the Soviets!” I took the whistle out of his hand and threw it at the scoreboard. I grabbed the basketball and punted it as hard as possible at the other team’s bench. I took some scissors out of my backpack and cut down the nets on the rims and put them on my head to wear like a lunch lady’s hairnet. I spit on the ground, mooned the crowd, and bit my thumb at the ref as I walked off in personal victory.
Okay…so that last part didn’t happen. But it could’ve. Instead, I looked at the ref and said, “It’s all right. My right ankle is so taped up right now that I couldn’t even feel if it landed the same time as my other one.”
I realized I was no where near 100% health-wise. I sauntered over to the bench and cheered on my teammates. I was able to tone down all competetiveness and take a detached look at what was going on. It was just kind of silly to sit and watch people flipping out over church league basketball. At halftime, a couple of guys grabbed microphones and shared their testimonies. New Me tapped Old Me on the shoulder and said, “this is what it’s all about.” These are fellow guys, fellow believers just competing in a sport.
10 minutes later I’m on the bench doing my best 6th man effort and I hear the other team trash talking our team a bit. “OH HECK NO! Don’t make me pull out my scissors and get crazy up in here!”
Oh dear…it’s gonna be a long season…