I know it’s hard to believe, but when I was in middle school; I was a member of our schools basketball team. This was not my decision, but my parents who were desperate to convince themselves that their son did not have anything wrong with him and could do things outside.
It was an utter nightmare and I hated every minute of it. The other boys had a very clever nickname for me, ‘Faggot’. OK, maybe not that clever; but when it’s the first time you’ve ever heard it; it’s difficult to develop a working comeback. But the social aspect of teamsports wasn’t the only reason I despised it. I also happened to be very terrible at it.
I mean, I know how basketball is supposed to work. You bounce the ball, you avoid losing the ball, you throw the ball in the basket. But when my brain tries to relay this information to my legs and arms, something seems to get lost in translation. Oftentimes, it would result in me lumbering along after my much more athletic teammates like some uncoordinated man-taco.
Because of my ineptitiude in the sport, but also because the coach could not just kick me off the team since our school was all about ‘everyones a winner’, I was placed on the bench for the majority of every game unless the team had a healthy lead and there wasn’t much time left in the game.
The last game I played of the season was such a game. With just 30 seconds left in the game, the coach looked at me and said, “Keiffer! You’re in!”. I looked at him, “Are you sure?” He thrust a finger to the court and as I tore off my gym pants, revealing my pasty white skin I jogged out to the court and tapped another player, letting him know that the coach wanted me to play, “Are you sure?”. I shrugged and he sprinted to the bench.
My parents started shouting from the stands, excited that their son was going to get to finish the game. The referee blew his whistle and within 3 seconds one of the opposing players had shoved me to the ground, resulting in a foul call. The ref jogged over to me and as he helped me up said the most terror inducing words I have ever heard, “Don’t you worry little guy, we’re going to get you some foul shots.” I waved my hands enthusiastically, “Oh no. That’s OK. If you really want to make it up to me, I would love some ice cream.”
The court clears out. My teammates stand by the bleachers with my coach, dumbfounded. Silence fills the gym, broken only by my sweaty little palms attempting (poorly) to dribble a basketball. I say a little prayer, set up my shot and release the ball.
It sails like a little orange sun in a perfect arc.
Over the basket and slaps against the back walls of the gym.
All the air is sucked out of the crowd and it’s at this point I decide that it doesn’t matter if I get a basket, so long as I just hit some shit. If only to show everyone that I at least understand how this game is played.
So I hit some shit.
The bottom left corner of the basket.
The rest of the game goes without consequence, me chugging along behind the other players like a little tug boat made of fail.
At the end of the season, our Principal is holding an awards convocation and says words that will forever change my life. “It is thanks to team sports such as our basketball and football teams that help to keep our students and your children away from negative influences like drugs, junk food and the like.”
I am amazed.
It wasn’t until that very moment that I ever thought I had an option. So I decided to become the best at that instead and that was my last teamsport I ever played.