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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The Basketball Game

When I was 12 I was allowed on the basketball team Local teams were made up by age group and geographic location. A neighborhood could have a teams of 12-13 year olds, 14-15 year olds, and so on. Each team would play neighboring teams of the same age group. At the end of the season there was a championship of sorts.

I was excited to get out on the court and show off my supposed skills. I practiced every day for hours on end.

The problem was that all the 13 year olds were also anxious to play because they were benched the previous year to let the older players to dominate time on the court.

I believe we were known as the team to beat. I did not recall a victory pervious to my joining the team. I got tired of losing and was ready to turn things around.

At 13, I was ecstatic. Now it was all mine to dominate the court.

Unfortunately, there was another problem. We got a new coach. The coach had a 12 year old son who could not dribble a basketball to save his own like. Even worse, the coach's son had a bunch of friends the same age of equal talent.

I felt I did not seem to get much game time for the start of the season. Not as much as I thought  I deserved anyway.

To nobody’s surprise we lost every game.

The few of us older kids started to hold private practices. Did our best to determine who would work out best for the starting positions.

When we were ready, it feel upon me or I took it upon myself to call the coach to let him know the upcoming game on Saturday was at a different building at a different time. i’m still surprised he believed me.

We almost did not get to play however. The officiator stated the rule that an adult had to represent us. Fortunately, the referee was an 18 year old from our neighborhood and we were allowed to play. So, we started to warm up.

When they other team showed up, some on my team were already giving up. This new team were like giants.

There is no way theses guys are 13 years old! I said to myself.

I was also informed the team was undefeated.

My bolstering words of encouragement fell on deaf ears. Obviously, we did not get the jump ball at the start of the game but I managed to steal it and put up the first 2 points on the board.

“You see,” I stated. “We can take these guys.”

It was a rather rigorous game but we managed to not foul out of the game entirely. I was lucky not to get thrown out I’m sure.

Halfway through the game, I realized the flaw in the plan. I was planning on playing the whole game but it was apparent the team was tired. I wasn’t sure what to do as we stumbled back on to the court.

I was never so happy to see the coach. He had shown up with replacements!

I marched over and told him. “I did not care how you do it, rotate these guys out every few minutes, but do not pull me out. I’m not joking.”

The game continued and the on going rotation allowed us to keep the lead. With a few minutes left of the game, I was pulled out. I was beyond upset, but not as much as when I found out I was replaced with the coach’s son.

“What are you doing? Why are you taking me out?”,  I demanded.

“You look tired.” was the response.

“I’ll tell you what I’m tired of...”

I pulled off my jersey, threw it at the coach ,and then stormed off the court. I tried to calm down in the bathroom before going home.

As I splashed water in my face, I thought that even our pathetic team could not lose a 10 point lead. Time would run out and they should barely win. When I had cooled down sufficiently, I started to leave the building.

At that moment someone came running after me to beg me to come back.

“You had a 10 point lead!“ I protested. “Don’t tell me you already lost it already.”

Not only did they lose it, but they were now behind. I jumped back in the game to salvage what I could. At the last second I was fouled and was given two penalty shots. I recall lamenting why I was fouled and not a better free throw shooter.

Everyone lined up for the penalty shot. Just like in some movie, the place went silent and time seemed to slow. I bounced the ball a couple times and could hear the eerie sound of the reverberation of the sound bouncing off the walls. I released the ball in a perfect arch to the goal, it bounced off the back drop, rolled around the rim and fell outside the hoop.

Time returned to normal. The sound also. There was a cheer from the crowd!

Wait, there was a crowd?

I turned to look and sure enough there was a good 15-20 people cheering. In vain, I looked for someone cheering for our team. The guy in the back looked like he was on our side.

Just great. I thought. They brought a whole cheering section.

The second penalty shot went the same way as the first. The score was 31 to 30. I had two chances to tie the game. I felt I had failed. I felt like a mouse and wanted to scurry away.

I awaited a look or a scowl from my teammates but they were fixated on the score. I looked back at the score and thought it must have been a record for us. 30 points!

As we walked away in triumph although we lost, we discussed how things would be different against the next team.

Things were different.If I recall correctly, the team went on and won several games. I think their new found abilities went on for years to come. Unfortunately, I was not with them.

My short lived basketball career was over.






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