Monday, July 6, 2009

Tonight Was a Shining Example of What I Was or Could Have Been

Tonight, I had a summer league basketball game. It's a men's league. It's ultimately meaningless, but the spirit of competition is strong in this league. Moreover, the talent level is pretty high, so it's a great outlet for my competitive drive.

We played the best team in the league tonight. This team has won this league for 4 years in a row. It's made up of a bunch of former all-state players, some stand-out athletes (one actually played major league soccer for a short time), and some guys who currently play in college.

One player on that team is generally considered the best player in the league. He graduated from a prep school a few years ago and went on to play for one of the best division 3 college basketball teams in the country. He's a 6'3" point guard who was a McDonald's All-American nominee (which isn't quite as spectacular as it sounds, but you still have to be a pretty solid player) in high school. He averaged over 20 points per game during his prep school days, and now starts for his college team.

He's a very good player. Very fundamentally sound. Good shooter. That said, anyone watching the game tonight would have said that I completely outplayed him.

Let me break that down: I'm a 5'9", 27 year old pharmacist who has chronic pain in his feet and ankles which isn't helped by spending 10 to 12 hours standing up at work. He's a 6'3", 20 year old, high level division 3 college basketball player who presumably keeps his conditioning up in the off-season in order to be ready for his college season. I outplayed him.

This wasn't a fluke either. I've played him before, and he simply cannot guard me. Granted, if I were to cover him, I wouldn't be able to guard him either because he has a lot of size on me. He'd just post me up all day. However, he's supposed to be a college point guard. He's supposed to be able to defend other point guards. I'm sure he's asked to guard the other team's point guard in every game he plays in college.

He can't guard me though. I'm too fast for him. Again, I'm 7 years older than him with a job that pretty much laughs in the face of anyone who tries to maintain a high level of fitness, and I'm too fast for him.

I scored 29 points tonight. I hit 7 three-pointers, most of which were the quick catch and shoot variety. I even got a chance to talk a little trash to this college player. I came down the right side of the court one time and realized I had a whole side cleared out. I crossed over hard to the left, and he bit on it. Off of the left cross, I quickly put the ball back through my legs to go right. He recovered a little bit, but he was completely on his heels, so I pumped the ball through my legs 2 more times really quickly as he kind of stammered backwards before finally just blowing right by him to the right. The only thing he could do was reach out and grab me so I wouldn't get an easy layup.

After that play, I just looked at him and proclaimed, "he's too slow," and I just repeated it a couple times for emphasis. He tried to talk trash right back to me, but what could he really say? I could get by him any time I wanted. He knew it. I knew it.

We ended up losing the game in overtime, but we really had no business being that close to that team. They're better than us. However, I'm so pleased with the way I played that I sort of consider it a moral victory.

You know... Maybe it is completely meaningless. You'll never find a stat sheet for this game. There's no media coverage of a men's summer league basketball game. There are no record books in this league. People will forget about this particular game within a couple of weeks.

It's not meaningless to me though. I knew I was never going to play in the NBA, and I chose my college for it's pharmacy program without regard to whether I could play basketball there (and for the record, I wouldn't have had a chance. I went to school at one of the best division 1 college basketball programs in the country). Even if I could have played college ball somewhere, I wouldn't have because I knew I had to build towards a future career. However, this shows me that I could have played at a higher level than high school. It shows me that the thousands of hours I spent dribbling a basketball when I was a kid weren't a total waste of my time.

Even if ultimately, whether I'm a good basketball player or not doesn't change my life in any meaningful way, I figure most other people spend plenty of time on meaningless endeavors. For example, how many people play golf in their spare time? How many of those are on the PGA Tour? Yet, they still all go out there trying to improve on their scores each time. People draw, paint, write, knit, and do countless other things to occupy their time. Do they not try to do as good a job as possible even if ultimately it won't get them anywhere?

Why should basketball be different? If anything, it's better than all that stuff. Basketball is a physically demanding sport. How many 27 year olds do you see that can go toe to toe with current college basketball players? Most of my friends have reached the age where they're starting to give up on basketball in favor of playing softball, which basically amounts to hanging out for a few innings just waiting to drink beer after the game. I, on the other hand, am still too fast for a college point guard. I can shoot a basketball as well as anyone, and I can dribble a basketball better than pretty much anyone.

It's something I'm proud of. I worked really hard and sacrificed a lot of time when I was young developing these skills. My basketball skills are obviously not readily apparent to people just meeting me. That's why I like it when people I know come to watch me play. It's a part of my personality that goes mostly unnoticed, but it's such a huge part of who I am. Sometimes, I feel like you can't truly understand me until you see me with a basketball in my hands. Some guys want to show off that they can play an instrument or cook well. I want to show that I'm a good basketball player. It's a form of self-expression to me.

Anyway... I rambled on for long enough. I'm just excited that I played so well tonight. Felt like sharing. Unfortunately, the virtual masses are my only audience at the moment.


Anonymous said...

no doubt, as a fellow young athletic pharmacist I know how good it feels to go out and feel like a young guy playing some ball. cuz this job can def make one into a coach potatoe.

Anonymous said...

'Good on you.' as in the current lingo, but really, glad there's something about continuity of dreams and reality.

(Also, goes to show how pharmacists are known to have some of the fastest reflexes in the health care sector. ? You didn't know how many pills we've caught before hitting the floor, or full bottles that haven't fallen over the edge of the counter!)

Ashley said...

Definitely awesome. Yay for talking trash at the inevitably cocky 20 year old...that rocks. =)