Saturday, March 19, 2011

Humiliation Archives, File #1: Basketball

I was a basketball player once. People came from all around to see me play. That's a lie. The truth is that I spent most of the games on the bench... ridin' the pine... keepin' my legs fresh, and drinking all the water. Occasionally we would play cards, the other bench warmers and me. Now THAT was a good time.

In all seriousness, my basketball career peaked during my Freshmen year season, when I was pretty close to being considered the "sixth man" on the team. That's like being the best bench warmer... it's actually one of the greatest achievements of my life. It was also during this season that all rationale and logic for my presence on the team would be called to serious questioning. And that was all because of one play that has been neatly tucked away in my humiliation archives.

It was early in the season, and I was actually in the game. This being somewhat unfamiliar territory for me, I was pretty much just running around in circles until something happened. In this particular case, "something" did happen and I found myself lined up under the basket in typical free-throw fashion. This is when my superior mental skills kicked in. My mind began to run through a series of possible scenarios that could follow this attempted free-throw. Either it would go in, the ball would be dead, and I would resume running aimlessly. In the event it would miss, however, I began to play out a scene in my mind of me, a ball-hungry beast, leaping into the air, grabbing the rebound with the ferocity of a mongoose, bursting toward the basket with all the tenacity of a caged gazelle, and successfully scoring two more points for my team. This was the kind of stuff legends were made of. This could be my defining moment, and I wasn't about to let it pass.

So I stood there in anticipation. My eyes were fixed, my knees bent and poised - ready to strike. The shot was up, and I plotted its trajectory. It would certainly miss, and I jumped in expectation. It was all playing out exactly as I had seen it in my mind. For a split second I thought to myself, There really is something to this "mental preparation" thing after all. With precision, I wrestled the ball out of mid air, landing securely on my feet; the landing softened by my NIKE Air pads (it was like landing on air). And with a savagery that shocked even me, I surged upward, determined to put that orange leather ball through the hoop where it belonged.

It wasn't until I was mid-release that it occurred to me: I was actually shooting... on the other team's basket.

Thankfully, I missed (keep in mind it was a layup).

In a feeble attempt to redeem myself, I pulled down my own rebound, dribbled down the court, and scored on our basket. I can still see the coach shaking his head as I resumed my all too familiar position on the bench. I can also still hear the laughing and joking from the people in the stands. Needless to say, I was thoroughly humiliated.

If someone would have told me then, "In 20 years, you'll be blogging about this, and we'll all have a good laugh at your expense," I would have told them, "You shut your mouth!" But here we are.

And I've said too much.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Personal Discoveries

I guess you could say I echo the sentiments of the season uttered by my friends and esteemed colleagues at 200lb Man and One Million Reasons. Winter in general has a way of bringing me down. My theory is that February is just that point in the season when our subconscious says enough is enough!, and our moods stage their full-on rebellion. I've been there... am there. In light of that, I've done some soul-searching over the past couple of days, and have actually come across a few discoveries.

First of all, I've discovered that I connect with God through nature. Part of my soul-searching took place over a three mile hike through the wilderness of Northern Indiana, and I can't begin to describe how soothing it was to my soul. Perhaps this is why the winter months take such a toll on me - I can't get outside as much as I'd like to. Nevertheless, I spent nearly two hours in the barren wilderness yesterday, and my spirits lifted. And by the way, I'm happy to report that on my trek through the woods I saw several woodland creatures, as well as a few bugs. I'm taking this as a positive sign that spring is here. Never mind the remnants of snow on the ground.

Second of all, I discovered that fire renews me. Maybe not in the literal sense, like fire renews gold. I haven't been burned by fire, or anything. But even now I'm sitting in front of a roaring blaze in a majestic stone fireplace, and the affect is inspiring. Watching the flames flicker and dance, it reminded me of the countless times I just felt the need to sit around a campsite and bask in the warmth of a fire, and how comforting it was. At this point, I'd like to point out to my mother that those years of playing with fire as a kid really have shaped me, and I now have a solid justification for my pyromaniac tendencies. This discovery also explained why I was so excited to get that fireplace DVD, being that our home lacks an actual fireplace. It has served us well through two winters, now.

Finally (for this blog, anyway), I've discovered the therapy of writing. This is primarily the reason for this post. I just finished a book in which the author posed this question: If you could retire right now with 10 million dollars, what would you do? My response: Live near water and spend my days writing. And just so we're clear, rivers don't qualify as water... at least not in my fantasy retirement scenario.

Well, there you have it. I know this might have been a startling departure from my typical prose, which has happened a lot lately. Don't get too used it... I'm sure I'll have more nonsense to share in the coming weeks. But I've gone on long enough, so I'll end this post now...

... though I actually had more to say.