Saturday, October 08, 2005

Relationships: Can we just not be friends?

Basketball relationships are funny. You can play with someone all the time and have absolutely no idea what they do for a job, where they are from, or even their real name.Every week, you cruise into the gym, slap the same hands, and say the same thing: "Yo, Johnny, Stretch, White Shaq, what's up? You got the next one? Can I get on?" Meanwhile, Johnny just came from his shift at the soda factory, Stretch spent the morning grading astrophysics exams, and Shaq had to get up early to do a porno shoot. You don't know any of this, and have little desire to find out. Then, the next time you're watching amputee dwarf porn on pay-per-view, there's that dude from the gym plowing some screaming, armless midget.

Don't get me wrong. I've made a lot of real friends over the years through basketball. But there are countless others that have come and gone. I think this is true for most of us. You play with a person all the time, and then one day they've just disappeared. Other times, you're the one who leaves. What do you do? Go to the gym in street clothes and say goodbye to everyone? But on any given day, only some of your hoops buddies will be playing. How many times do you have to go? And do you even pretend that you're gonna stay in touch? No offense, but if you think that I'm gonna be friends with some creepy fetish porn actor, you've got another thing coming.

Setshotters: Any wisdom to share here? Similar experiences? Exit strategies?


Drew Halfmann said...

Yes, this is a difficult issue. I recently came across an interesting articleon this very subject. A pick-up player killed himself and his fellow players weren't sure how to respond. He was a "basketball friend". What exactly did that mean? How close were they? Should they have intervened somehow? Should they go to the funeral?

Often, I meet people on the court that I would like to turn into off-court friends, but I don't quite know how to make the transition. I suppose it would be as simple as getting a beer after the game, but there seems to be a boundary of some sort there.

Schayes said...

Great article, Old School. I have mostly played at university gyms that draw from a rather narrow slice of the demogarphic pie, but for a few years I played at a city court in Austin with a whole host of characters, and I often wondered who they were, these regulars I knew and did not know.

Most I am sure I would have had no interest in getting to know, but here I interacted with them in this one way. For all the justifiable criticism we men get for our aloof interactions (as this author points out), this very aloofness is what allows us to do something like play basketball with others with whom we share nothing else. I like that.