Saturday, August 04, 2007
Friday Afternoon at the Y
I had been waiting all week to play racquetball again. After I played for the first time last Friday, I went out to the sports store over the weekend and bought some goggles, and a racquet for Mrs. Octopus, in the hopes that she would want to start playing with me as well. She used to be a badminton champ back in high school down in Orange County, so I figured she would take to another fast-paced racquet sport.
Anyhow, my friend at work had promised that we could play again at 5 on Friday. Is there a happier time of the week? 5 o'clock on a Friday, the week is done, and you're headed out the door for an hour of playing a game, without a care in the world. (Perhaps sports are a form of escapism for me; I don't do crack, but instead play games.) Sadly, my racquetball buddy told me around 4:30 that he had to cancel -- some kind of work crisis. Needless to say, I was crushed.
Luckily, I was prepared. I've been stockpiling sports equipment in my car for the last few months. I have, in my trunk, a basketball, two soccer balls, soccer cleats, basketball sneakers, shorts, socks, contacts, a few water bottles, and some underwear. You never know when you might have an opportunity to join a game. So I went down and took out my basketball and my basketball sneakers and headed over to the Y downtown to see if I could find some pick-up basketball.
There were only about four or five people at the Y's basketball court. I started by playing 21 with a couple kids who looked like they were 16 or 17. [There are some interesting regional variations to 21 across the country, some of which are described in the linked Wikipedia entry. Most people don't seem to play "taps" out here. Also, a lot of people substitute threes for the free throws after a made field goal. You generally have to discuss the rules before beginning a game with people you haven't played with before.]
One of the kids was terrible, but the other was really great. He could drain the three or an outside jumper even with a hand waving in his face -- and that's what I tried to do over and over: just get a hand in his face as he lined up for a jumper. It didn't faze him. I have never had much of an outside game: I've always been more of a slasher with a somewhat unorthodox approach and finish. I often end up contorting myself to split defenders, and then find myself in the air with my back to the basket trying to make a circus shot. I hit a couple of these shots on the drive, and then surprised myself by hitting a few fall-away jumpers as well once I had gotten the good kid to give me a few steps to respect the drive. At 32, at least I still have some semblance of my first step. The other surprise for me was my ability to make free throws yesterday. I took my time and spun the ball in my hands until my middle finger was on the inflation bladder -- just as my J.V. coach in high school had taught me during some frustrating sessions at the line -- bent my knees slightly and broke my wrist on the follow-through. The good kid waxed us in the first game. In the second game I hit jumpers and some drives to race out to 21, but couldn't hit the three to cap it. The good kid caught up and promptly hit the three to win again. I didn't mind, since I was spotting them about 16 years.
I was pretty wiped out after the first two games, and the two kids were tired and took off, but I get pretty obsessive once I am out on the court, so I went and found some other guy shooting by himself and aske him if he wanted to play. He was like 6' 4" or so (I'm 5' 9" and a quarter -- in the morning). I figured he would kick my ass, but it was a chance for another game, some more exercise. He agreed, and we played two games of 21. He had a nice jumper, and hit threes pretty consistently. Surprisingly, he wasn't that good inside; he would easily force the ball down to the post and then miss a two-footer. I had mixed luck with my drives: there wasn't anywhere for me to go once I got to the hoop with this guy towering over me. I also couldn't mix him up with any crossovers: he was quicker than I would've expected. I had to get creative with some ugly-ass baby hooks and some more circus shots. I eventually reverted to a lot of outside jumpers, which I had mixed success with. He killed me both games, although I had a better showing in the second: I think I got to 9. He seemed pretty pleased with himself after the games, and suggested, magananimously, that I should work on my left. He said I was quick with the right and "had a pretty good game on that side" but that I had "nothing" on the left. I totally agreed. I said I was working on it, but that I had never had a left. I don't think I ever will.
That concludes this chapter of Confessions of a Wanna-be Jock . . . .