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.

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