When I first arrived at the gym I was greeted with smiles from my teammates who hadn't seen me on the court in almost exactly a year. My return wasn't epic by any stretch of the imagination, it was kind of like seeing an acquaintance you hadn't seen in a while...who's name you're not quite sure of...oh yeah the wrist guy.
The night got off to a funny start when the team captain pulled me aside and notified me that I'd be "running the point". I couldn't help but laugh as I hadn't done anything resembling "running" in quite sometime. I imagined it would be more like "jogging the point" or "briskly walking the point". In any case it wasn't going to be pretty, especially since I was still breathing heavily from opening the door to the gym...It doesn't help to pull on the door when the handle clearly says "Push"
3 minutes to tip-off, its time for lay-up drills. These are always intense for me because I know the other team is watching to see who's a complete spazz and who knows how to play. After a few made lay-ups I'm feeling confident that I gave an impression of at least knowing the basics of the sport...I can't say the same for some of my new teammates. Just a side note–its never good to sweat as much as Patrick Ewing during layup drills...unless you're Patrick Ewing..and even then its still gross.
Game time! I'm in the starting line up, coach has no idea that I'm completely out of shape. Let's see if I last more than 2 minutes. I have 3 objectives during this game, none of which would ever show up in a stat sheet. 1)Do not hurt myself 2)Do not hurt myself 3)Do not hurt myself. Win or lose, if I can fulfill these three objectives I will be satisfied with my performance.
Through the first two minutes, my team is down by ten points, yet I remain injury free...get the champagne ready! My first few shots are way off and it feels like I'm running in quick sand. I imagine anyone observing this feels as if they're watching a drunken friend stumble out of a bar; funny at first but all in all very, very sad.
3 minutes gone by and my lungs actually detach from my body while I'm on the court. I raise my hand for a sub, collect my respiratory system from mid court and stumble towards the bench like a zombie in the Thriller video...I...Need...Water! I finish out the half with some pretty good cheers and advice for my teammates from the bench. My go-to statement while on the bench; "Good effort!!!"...when nothing else is going well, what else can you say? We finish the first half down 15 or 20, I'm not sure because my vision of the scoreboard is being blurred by sweat, and or tears.
Half time is about 3 minutes. Just enough time to come up with some destined to fail strategy and catch my breath from all that hard cheering while on the bench.
I start the second half and last about 5 minutes before my next substitution. Aside from a few ridiculous shots and child-like attempts at defense, I pride myself on the fact that I have yet to commit a turn-over. I sub out for a few minutes and the team makes a small come back, coincidence?, I think not. Going into the end of the second half my stat line looks something like this:
Mini-Heart attacks: 1
I check back into the game with about 2 minutes left. We're down by 20, so basically we're just trying to finish the game with some dignity. The other team's lead quickly jumps to 26 and our dignity goes out the window. Now we're just trying to get the hell outta the gym.
As I watch the clock count down, a sense of accomplishment washes over me as I realize I'll end the game without committing a turnover. Just then the ball bounces in my direction and I turn into a bumbling fool. I grabbed at the ball and for some odd reason I think it's a good idea to start a fast break...well more of a slow, methodical break, but it's still a break. With the clock ticking down I spot my teammate out of the corner of my eye. I try my best Magic Johnson-esque no-look pass.
As the ball sailed out of bounds, 5 feet above my intended target, my hopes of making a positive contribution during the game vanished. The buzzer sounded and my teammates and I kind of shrugged at each other and walked off the court. The post-game speech was short and we all ran off on our separate ways as if we were escaping the scene of a crime.
All I can say is, at least I didn't get hurt!
Next game in two weeks, stay tuned.