Friday, April 2, 2010

For Love of Basketball

Today, while doing jump-shots during my P90X Cardio workout a breeze stumbled in through the window at just the right time making me, for a moment, miss doing real basketball jump shots. Yes, for a minuscule moment in time I actually missed a sport. But after carefully analyzing my feelings I realized what I really miss is the social connections made through sports.

For example, when I truly enjoyed playing basketball I played it outside on my grandparents cement court, with my family--my grandpa teaching me proper follow-through, my dad, never backing down from blocking me, my mom never letting me win (though eventually I would).

I missed playing at other outdoor courts in Greeley, Garnett, even in Hays with friends who I always beat. And I didn't have that flashback of reminiscing and longing just because I am a born winner and would enjoy kicking someone's ass again. I think there is something about spring that always makes me think of basketball in a joyful manner instead of in that trapped-gym feeling I got later in life when the sport became more of a chore, more of an obligation, when I started to realize how silly it was to run back and forth for 40 minutes putting the same ball through the same hoop over and over again for no real apparent reason besides saying at the end when I would most definitely have more point than anyone else--that I was indeed "better" than them.

But I have so many good memories attached to basketball. One of my favorite memories is of a moment that happened in 6th grade when a scrawny pencil thin boy with a rat tail thought that because of his gender alone he could beat a girl—a girl (me) who was ten feet taller and at least a hundred pounds bigger than him. I remember how he drove me nuts, like a rodent, always nipping at my heels, and then once when I when rebounding a shot, he thought he could get the ball from me and attached to it like his hands were covered in super glue. I remember being amazed at my own Amazonian-like strength, watching as his body lifted from the ground, watching as I swung him from left to right, right to left, until finally he lost his grip and he flew 10 feet or more across the court. That moment really made my year. I felt powerful. I felt like a confident winner. It didn’t hurt that I hurt both his pride and his physical body and he never again thought he could compete against me. And I remember receiving admiration from both the girls and the boys who knew at that moment that I was a badass.

So, I guess in a way, basketball helped develop my badass persona, which is why when I do fake jump shots in my living room I am slightly disappointed that I am not playing for real. Playing outside against worthy friendly opponents. Playing as a way to have fun, to share an experience, to get off the fucking couch, not playing as a militarized machine, an obligatory dim gym pawn for a dim-witted coach which is what made me quit in high school.

It’s safe for me to say that I miss the feeling of the perfect release, the ball spinning beautifully swooshing the net in an almost soundless score. The smell of dirt and grass and concrete, the feeling of skinning a knee on a futile attempt to steal the ball, the feeling of a worthy opponent guarding me, all the while me knowing that I will get around said opponent, and they will have to buy me dinner or a drink or be my servant for the rest of the day because that was the terms of the bet before beginning. Because what is a game without an incentive to win? I guess it’s just like a fake jump shot—good for the body, but it does nothing for the mind or the soul.

(P.S. I am being a bit overdramatic on my actual ability to play this sport…sure I have won games, but I can admit to losing a few over the years as well, though as you can tell, I do not really care to admit it.)

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