Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Self Depreciating Childhood Nostalgia pt. 3

I'm a pretty good athlete. I was the captain of my high school varsity baseball team and played a number of seasons in the local youth touch football league. I had a good knowledge of the games I played, and while some of the kids might have been more naturally gifted, physically, my understanding of strategy and situations allowed me to gain an edge as the competition became tougher.

Not so much with Basketball. My pudgy frame was much better suited for the gridiron than the hardwood. I had a decent shot, but I couldn't get up and down like the quicker, lankier kids. All in all, the months between baseball and football season were mostly spent on the bench, keeping score as my teammates battled whatever parish from the CYO we were playing that day. However, the league had a rule that every player needed to play in every game, no exceptions.

I was usually inserted early in the first half, when my presence on the court couldn't affect the eventual outcome of the game. But for whatever reason, once when I was about nine years old, I found myself on the court during a close game at home in the fourth quarter. I remember the crowd as being enormous (though it probably wasn't), and the air being thick with tension. One of the opposing players took a shot that clanked off the rim, and the rebound was coming right towards me. A teammate of his came rushing in from the foul line hoping to snatch it away, but I jumped up and got my hands on it in the split second before he got there. The result was an epic scrum, with each of us trying to wrench the ball away from the other. We struggled for what felt like an eternity, and as I could feel his hands begin to slip, I let out a triumphant bellow:


The entire place went silent. The members of the roaring crowd had miraculously conspired to take a collective breath at the precise moment I let out my squeaky, pre-pubescent scream.

Then the laughter came. Thunderous. Easily as loud as the cheering had been a few moments prior. I turned red as the ref came over and took the prize I had fought so hard for. It had been ruled a jump ball, and my opponent heard the whistle before I did. That was the only reason he let go.

A couple of girls I knew were at the game, including one I'd had a crush on since Kindergarten. I saw them in the parking lot afterwards, giggling to each other while walking towards Phillies Pizzeria. I stripped off my jersey and got into my dad's car.

Til the day I die, I'll never shake the feeling that they were laughing at me.