I dragged ass getting out the door to play hoops this morning. With three no-shows, I was the ninth to hit the gym, so I had to sit while they ran “fours” hoping a tenth would walk through the door. No worries. I hadn’t touched the ball in two weeks and my left foot’s still balky from overtraining, so I thought a little more time to warm up was in my best interest all the way around.
A double-play team of baseball seniors came in.
“You playin’ today.”
“Nah, Mr. J. Goin’ to lift those weights. Gotta get big.”
“Right on. Happy Friday.”
The first game was over, and I got in on the next run. Not a bad game. A lay-up in motion. Some sneaky transition defense. A no-look, through-the-wickets that would’ve made Marcus Paige proud.
Next game. Players change, and now I’m D-ing up a guy who’s much better than me. Hell, everybody’s much better than me. I had to face that a couple of years ago when I started playing pick-up after a multi-season hiatus. And even in my “hey-dey,” I was a streaky shooting, stubborn pick-setting and rebounding player at best. So, in my return to playing on a weekly basis, I had days where I stunk: I couldn’t catch a pass and I would lose my man getting back on defense.
I still do that sometimes. Everyone does. What made it worse? I would beat myself up about it. About a Friday-morning pick-up game. Replaying my personal “not Top-10” in my head, I’d kick myself, remembering every turnover, every ugly shot. And there were lots.
But today, I was feeling all right. Until he started laying it up on me. And shooting on me. And hitting everything on me. Everything. Whether he beat me off the dribble or I was in his hip pocket, it was nothing but net, nothing but net. And of course, this challenge impaired whatever little offense I have, blowing rebound stick-backs, clanging the deep ball off the rim, airing turn-around jumpers. As days go, it was a clunker of a game.
Still, I don’t linger on that so much anymore. Too much good life to live to dwell on a bad game. And a bad game still beats not playing at all. Plus, I have kids to teach, lives to shape, the future minds of America to edify. Shower up and the day goes well. Yummy breakfast and brilliant debate about V for Vendetta with my colleagues, killer observation in class about the post-9/11 implications of the film,and then a good class with quiet timed writings at the end.. I’m on my post as 3rd Period bleeds into Fourth. 2:15 is in my sights. My former student from the double-play duo comes strutting down the hall, loving senior year, loving life.
“How’d the weights go.”
“Good. Real good. Got big. How was the ball?
“Man, I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and the guy I was guarding couldn’t miss.”
He shrugs. “Had days like that before.”
“Yup. Me too. Have a good weekend.”
“You, too, Mr. J.”