Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Psychology: What's the worst that can happen?

In addition to increasing physical discomfort, we aging ballers must deal with another type of pain: shame. We are ashamed that we're not as good as we used to be. We are ashamed that our shorts are too short. We are ashamed of our 1987-model Reebok Pumps. We are ashamed to leave the court and go back to our "jobs." Most of all, we are ashamed that youngsters break our ankles, dunk on us and block our shots and then cheer wildly about it. Don't they know that if they played us when we were in our prime, we'd be the ones breaking ankles, dunking (ok, slapping the backboard) and blocking (ok, contesting)?

I read somewhere (Reader's Digest?) that the best way to deal with shame is to bring it out into the open. So let's share our most shameful moments. It'll be fun -- promise!

The worst one for me was missing a two-foot layup at the buzzer to lose a league game in New York. We were down one with a few seconds to go. The final play was not called for me, but our guy missed the shot, and by pure dumb luck, the rebound fell right into my hands directly under the basket. I didn't know how much time we had, panicked, and BRICKED it from point blank range. We actually won the league championship that season, but the game I choked was the only one we lost. I don't remember too many details from the season, but that moment is forever burned into my memory. Oh, did I mention that my girlfriend was at the game?

Another shameful moment was getting alley-oop dunked on to lose a pickup game. I think that it was game point both ways (i.e., next basket wins). I was guarding someone much bigger than me. All I remember is losing my man for literally a second, turning around and seeing him way up in the air, and then hearing the awful sound of a game-winning dunk. I was basically under the basket, which meant that I had gotten posterized in the final, climactic moment.

Alright, that was less fun than I thought. But since I wrote it, I''ll post it. What are you ashamed of?


Anonymous said...

Two horrible experiences come to mind. The first was relatively minor, but something so out-of-the-ordinary that it bears mentioning: I was playing a pick-up game at a YMCA during some holiday weekend home from college, and after a basket or two I found myself the only thing on the bottom block between another player who had just secured the rebound, and his basket. He seemed to ignore me and he attempted to shoot the ball literally right over me. So I of course jumped up and rejected his shot out of bounds--which really seemed to catch him off guard--and shortly thereafter I realized why he hadn't paid me much attention: I was on his team...

The second incident was one of those games where nothing would fall, absolutely nothing. I was a freshman or sophomore at UCONN and we were playing a competitive pickup game in the fieldhouse, and I kept getting open looks so I kept taking shots. Unfortunately, the opposition was playing a stifling defense on everyone else but me, and after about a half-dozen misses, their defense kept funneling passes to me and they kept laying off of me BIGTIME. I was missing the bunnies and it seemed like the whole gym was watching me miss shot after shot. I don't think I have ever felt so impotent, and the smirks and the smack talking that day were brutal.

Anonymous said...

You'll please forgive me for taking this comment out of basketball, but since I'm fairly ass-suckingly bad at that sport, there isn't a whole lot that can embarrass and/or humble me to the point of relaying it here.

But football is a sport where I can hold my own. And a few years ago, I found myself playing a game in the snow with some old high school friends back in D.C.

As some of you know, playing in the snow is great because everyone's wearing heavy boots and bulky clothes, you're moving slower and there's a nice layer of padding on the ground, so you can tackle and it doesn't hurt a whole lot.

About midway through the game, I catch a pass over the middle and have nothing between me and the end zone -- about 10 yards away -- but the brilliant whiteness of snow. I see my teammate out of the corner of my eye running toward me, so I slow down in order to do something goofy -- dance a jig, do a summersault, etc. -- with him into the end zone.

Instead...BANG! I get absolutely leveled to the ground by a hit that, had it been caught on film, would have been taught in every league across the country from Pop Warner to the NFL. I look up, wiping the snow from my eyes, and see the smiling face of my friend Nicole, all 5' 1" and 95 lbs. of her, staring at me.

She was not on my team. She also recovered my fumble for a touchback.

CJB said...

Well, let's see. Once I got punched in the face by a 13 year old at hamilton madison after I told him to stop talking shit during a game. (He was on my team, and prior to the game he announced to his teammates not to pass the ball to me). It didn't hurt physically, but it was deeply injurious to my ego and particularily irritating because there was no way I was going to punch back at a 13 year old while all his friends were laughing at me.

And there was the game this past summer when I ended up being the dude picked on my team to guard a severely mentally handicapped kid who was 5'1, and he ended up hitting a 3 pointer over me because I was trying to be nice and let him shoot. (sure you were, Cary...)

but I think the most humiliating thing over time, rather than a specific incident, is the fact that nearly every game I play in I always end up guarding the obviously least talented player on the court. Except when Jeff decides he wants to score 39 points, then he makes sure I guard him by marking up against me on D.

Actually, that's not the most humiliating thing. I think the most was when we were in a shirts and skins game on a hot summer day, and I was guarding a semi cute female PG, so obviously I had to go shirtless, which I think should be outlawed in all pickup games anyways. Anyways, I grabbed a rebound and started to push the ball up the floor when i turned around to see if she was trying to rip the ball from me, and instead she was making a grossed out face and wiping the sweat from my back off of her hand onto her shorts.

am I gonna get suspended from setshot for gross-ness now?

CJB said...

by the way, can i throw this out there while we're on the topic-why do people ever play shirts and skins b-ball? It's not like its that hard to distinguish 5 humans on the court from 5 other humans.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Cary, I have a more embarrassing one for you. Remember when we "played" ball with a bunch of little kids in Ft. Greene a few summers ago? The average age was about 6, so we would give them the ball and they'd giggle and run around without dribbling, so we were just kind of being camp counselors.

So once, Cary gives the ball to the smallest kid, probably about 4 years old, who never got to touch the ball before. The kid can barely hold the thing with his tiny little hands. But he rears back, and throws the ball with a surprising velocity, right at Cary's face, knocking Cary over.

It was one of the five best moments of my sporting life.

Jeff said...

We play shirts and skins so we can identify the sissies and publicly humiliate them.

You're not a sissy, are you?

CJB said...

You guys are always picking on me. First of all, Justin, out of fairness, you should inform readers of this fine site that prior to that moment, I had picked up 20, 10 with 6 steals. It's not easy to rip a 5 year old like that, they're low to the ground and forget to dribble.

And as for you, El Jeffo, let me remark that I am certainly not a sissy. remember that game where I sucked and missed most of shots and turned the ball over a lot, you know, that one? Well I had a hangnail that game. I PLAYED THROUGH THE PAIN!!! I am a true champion.

And...Merry Christmas to all the goyische ballers out there.

Drew Halfmann said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

My most embarassing moment (aside from setting a moving pick in the last seconds of the fourth grade playoffs--see my bio) also happened during my rookie years. In seventh grade, my team played a regular season game against the pitiful St. Mary's of Derby, KS (rumor had it that they couldn't afford a gym and so practiced shooting into a trash can in a classroom). Shortly after half-time, I came up with a loose ball around mid-court and took it for a breakaway layup. As you might have already guessed, I was uncontested because I was scoring for the other team. Fortunately, I never got nicknamed "wrongway" or anything like that because such confusion was a fairly regular occurence in seventh grade games. And it only slightly marred my game because I scored a career-high thirteen points. I've never been sure whether I should add or subtract the wrongway points to my total.

Anonymous said...

Once when I was 17 and playing in a park league - we got beat 77 to 3. I was 2nd high scorer with a free throw. The other team was just laughing at us we were so bad