I Love This Game
It’s another day, probably a Monday. I’m not sure. I roll into the locker room to get ready to head to the gym for some noon basketball. I’m feeling excited already just because it has been a week or so since I last played. Once or twice a week I try to get to the gym to play basketball. The game always draws me back no matter what.
Upon entering the locker room I encounter my buddy Dave. Dave is the kind of guy absolutely everyone loves playing with. He is unselfish, he plays hard, he’s always positive, and he can flat out shoot. I love playing with Dave. Our games are opposites. He is a shooter with range and I’m a slasher who seeks the rim. It makes for a fun combo.
Our locker talk starts with some catching up and then progresses into a conversation about when we do the same things over and over with no change it gets mundane. We started discussing why that is exactly why we love certain things. For Dave, he spoke about fishing and for both us basketball. You can have some days you catch something or maybe a lot and then there are other days when you catch nothing. There are days when it is an absolute stinker, a dud. However, all it takes is that one great day to keep going out. It makes up for the bad days.
It’s the same with basketball. We both love the game because one moment it brings such pure joy and those raw moments that are fleeting but feel so sweet, the ones when the shots are falling or you’re part of a great play. Then there are the moments that truly humble you. It may be an agonizing defeat or having your shot swatted into the 10th row or there may be that boneheaded pass that gets picked. Maybe you can’t hit the side of a barn with your shot so you have to sit out with shin splints like that guy “Waterbury” (Waterbury shout-out with an alias. You know who you are.)
The game is never the same. It’s unexpected and no matter what you do one game it is so much different than the next. Some days are on and some days are off. There is always uncertainty how each game will unfold but it doesn’t stop you from coming back. Its unpredictable.
The addicting thing about the game is the comradery and connection you create with others. There are so many different people of different stories and backgrounds between those lines. None of that matters. You may have never played together before but there is the “good pass” or “nice shot” or “great D” you exchange with each other. That’s the beauty of it. You’re all just playing the game, one that always has the same goal, put the orange ball in the hoop. Something that seems simple but is always different.
It’s another world on that court, an escape. Nothing else matters. It’s just you and the 4 others trying to put the ball in the one hoop against the 5 guys trying to put the ball in the other hoop. Everyone has their own different skills and abilities. Many grew up with the game. Some may not have and picked it up later. What got each one to that point is different and how it all comes together on the hardwood is almost like a story each time.
For me the game started years ago playing under the farm light on gravel against my brothers. I’d claim Michael Jordan and the Bulls as my team and they picked whoever else as we’d play series after series. We’d go for hours attacking each other. Then there was getting a new hoop in February and playing in 30-40 degree weather, first one to 100. Jump to the summers under the lights at the Green Tops as players would just stop to get in a game, some who could jump out of the gym and others who have to stare at the ball as they dribble. It didn’t matter. We just played. The Tuesday night basketball crew in Colorado that featured friends who once they laced up just burned to beat each other. Or the nightly leagues in Chicago that introduced me to a whole new toughness with the game, mentally and physically. If you’ve never experience trash talk you’ll get a dose there real quick.
All of that was the essence of the game though. It forged who I became as a player with each part driven by a love for the game. Each time I picked up that ball I wanted to be better than the last time. It could be because I played poorly the last time or I’d experienced some roundball glory and wanted to relive it. It’s been a part of my life for a very long time. It teaches me something every time.
The game of basketball can be a metaphor for a number of things. It could be the day-to-day of life. It could be for any sport. At the core of the game it’s the different and humbling nature each time that relates to Dave when he fishes. It’s the golfer who hits a draw on a dogleg left that puts the ball within feet of the pin to his next shot sinking deep into a bunker. It’s the surfer hitting a barrel and feeling the water at their fingertips to the next charge that leaves them spinning in the swell. Maybe it’s the soccer player crossing another up and bending the kick inside the far corner post to the next time out getting no shots and not finding their lines. For each one it’s never the same. So many things factor into each time out but the good and the bad that attract us to come back for more.
Basketball is being able to find comfort in the uncomfortable. I’ve played it enough that I find comfort in my ability, even as I now play into my 30s. I know the next time I step foot in the gym I may have fresh legs and be able to attack that rim but then the next time things just won’t go my way. It may be uncomfortable. Isn’t that the point though? What’s the point in playing if it’s always the same. I play because when there are those days when it clicks it’s hard to beat that. There are also the days when I just appreciate being able to be out there running with others who enjoy basketball like I do. It’s having the respect for the game and how it can unfold each time. I know I can go home and know that the next opportunity will be completely different. For something so simple, it’s so complex. It’s why I love this game.