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Hoop Dreams

Friday, 16 August 2013

For some time now, I have been thinking about playing basketball again.  Although I enjoy watching a variety of sports, the only one that I ever played with any marginal skill or success was basketball.

My basketball “career”, such as it was, had 4 phases—the backyard phase, which extended from grade school through high school and consisted of the joyous afternoons and weekends playing pick-up games on the way home from school or on the weekends, the “competitive” phase, which lasted exactly 4 years, from 6ththrough 9th grades and involved a lot of practicing and sitting on the bench, but not much actual playing time and which culminated in being 3rdstring on the Mt. Lebanon Junior High School 9th Grade Section 8 champions, and which resulted in the last real trophy of my life 41 years ago, the intramural phase, those years of college and graduate school where anyone who couldn’t play had long since stopped trying and those who were left ranged from decent (me) to really good former high school varsity athletes who were still looking to win, and the adult phase, which actually had two different periods, a highly-competitive couple of years when I first started working at this school and the young teachers would play at night, and the later, now infamous, league that began after “Pistol” Pete Maravich died at 44 and all of us who were older decided to get together on a weekly basis and play a casual, somewhat slower game without keeping score until the final game to 10 baskets.

And suddenly, I have a desire to play again.

This news will not rock the world of sports. I doubt that many people who know me will read this and take it very seriously.

There are too many things that stand in the way:
  1.  I am not in shape to play basketball.  Though I’ve never suffered any serious athletic injury and could theoretically step on to a court right now, the reality is that I need to weigh less and be more accustomed to at least jogging before I lace up the b-ball shoes.

  2. I am not in shape to play basketball.  And by this, I mean, the times I’ve shot a basketball in the last 15 years are almost none.  The occasional effort, where I’ve tried the old, reliable flat-footed jump shot I used to shoot, usually end in me hearing “Air Ball” in my head, because the repetitive motion of shooting the ball does not have the power behind it that it once had.  Dribbling, especially with my non-dominant right hand, would be pretty silly.  Stopping and starting and stopping and starting, the constant motion of basketball, will tell in these muscles quickly.

  3. I don’t know who I’d play with.  My neighbor across the street, who is probably 12 years older than I am, is the only one still around that I used to play with.  The others have retired or moved on.  It would take some work to drum up a consistent batch of players.

  4. I don’t know what kind of game we would play.  I know that, even in shape, I can’t play the quick game of fast breaks and steals, but I also don’t like the thought of doing nothing but walking up and down the court.  How do a group of men, by nature competitive, find a game at a middle speed?

  5. I don’t know where I’d play.  The modern, upwardly-mobile, semi-suburban answer is to build my own court in my back yard, hire a contractor and convince my wife to allow me to financially indulge in a childhood fantasy, a return to the roots and all of that.  Or to use the school facilities, but I don’t know about the red tape there.  When we used to play at school, they would relegate us to distant locations that no longer exist.
But it’s kind of thrilling to ponder, all of it.  The shoes I don’t have, the ball I don’t, the shorts I don’t have, and basically every detail that I don’t have.  For whatever reason, none of those obstacles seem very important.  Instead, I feel like all I need to do is to push it a little bit in the community, take a few steps personally to start conditioning, make a concrete purchase so that there is something tangible that my eyes will keep coming into contact with, and it all might magically come together.

That’s why they call them dreams.

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