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This story centers around a church basketball team I played on in high school. For those of you who don’t know about southern culture, there’s a church on every corner, typically located by the Golden Corral on every corner. Well, the majority of churches in town had a basketball league where they would gather youth members in the church and form teams to compete against each other. Nothing makes you feel closer to Jesus than curb stomping those straight laced First Baptist punks down the street.
If I’m being transparent, I have about as much athletic ability as Helen Keller. If we were to play each other in a one-on-one game, the smart money would be on her, and the game would probably last until one us died from old age. Despite my lack of basketball talent, our team was stacked with athletes. I don’t mean to brag, but we were pretty much the 2003-2004 Lakers (this analogy will make more sense later). We were lethal. With all of this athletic ability, I knew I had little to add to our team on the court. I decided to contribute in the only way I knew how– by providing comic relief in moments of team turmoil. Like the time someone got pissed and chunked a ball at a teammate in practice…things could get dicey from time to time.
Every team needs a funny man and a morale raiser. I knew my role and I played it well. If you know you’re not going to contribute anything on the court, you need to at least attempt to look the part to try and fool opposing teams. So, what’s a 5’8, 125 lb white kid from the suburbs do to strike fear in the hearts of opposing teams? Goes and buys an A.I. sleeve of course!
A.I. was an idol of mine as a kid. Dude gave zero fucks about your opinion. Did you see his practice speech? Way to stick it to the man, A.I. The guy didn’t need practice, and we all knew it. The total anti-Peyton Manning, and I honestly loved it. If he had any help on the court he would have won the 2001 NBA finals, but I digress. In the interest of time, I’ll skip ahead to our semi-final playoff game against Ridgecrest Baptist; however, I’ll provide you with my impressive stat line heading into this matchup…
Before the game started, I noticed some of the popular high school hotties had started to fill the stands. These ladies had obviously caught wind of our undefeated season and wanted to witness greatness in action. At this moment, I prayed we would win a close game so I wouldn’t have the opportunity to embarrass myself by actually entering the game. Unfortunately, this would not be the case.
I had a few minutes of playing time in the first half and managed to feed our stars the rock to avoid making a fool out of myself. The game had been heated during the first half after a few arguments with the ref by both teams. Tensions were high with so much on the line, and it was beginning to affect both sides mentally. After a halftime speech from coach that would give a Dabo Swinney post-game dance off a run for its money, we came out clicking to start the second half.
With around 4 minutes left in the game we were up around 12 points. The coach decided it was trash time and put the scrubs in, which included me. The next 2 minutes is a blur, but with some of the second team guys in they pulled within 2 points. With less than 2 minutes left the coach decided not to call a TO and left us in the game. A defender got behind our defense and went up for an easy 2 pt layup…what happened next is hard for me to type.
The offensive player was fouled on the play, and made the bucket. A good call because he was hacked, but I was pissed. I was pissed that my teammate fouled him, I was pissed that I was in the game with things going south, I was pissed at the fact the game was slipping away, and I slammed the ball into the ground. The ball bounced over my head…and then I heard the second whistle.
The ref called a technical foul. It was my worst nightmare. As I stated before, tensions had been building with the refs, and I had set them over the edge. The game was tied with around a minute left, and the other team was getting three shots with a possession to follow. Their best player stepped to the line and drained all three shots.
I don’t remember the last minute of the game as I’m pretty sure I blacked out from shame, but the other team ended up winning by 4 points. I stormed off the court and headed straight home to barricade myself inside my room for the next 24 hours. To be honest, I cared about church basketball about as much as I care about my rising credit card debt…very little. My friends were all really into it, so I was disappointed I let them down (not to mention the popular girls in the stands).
I skipped school the following day out of pure embarrassment. I had even left my sweet Nokia phone at the gym after leaving in a hurry, and had to return to that wretched place to retrieve it. I had about 15 missed calls and text messages to see if I had jumped off the roof of the nearest building. Two days later I showed up to school and word had spread faster than the Ebola panic. I was given enough shit to bury the empire state building, and rightfully so.
Now we all laugh about it when the gang is back together. Anytime a big group of people are around this tragedy is brought up in order to embarrass me, especially when the fellas catch me talking to an attractive female. I never played church basketball again, and the following year the team won the championship. Now that I look back on it, when coach called my number, I should have just looked at him and said, “Na, I’m cool.”.
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