Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Charity Stripe

A while back during one of my insanity laced entries (I don't have the time nor the energy to look it up, but I know it's out there), I was complaining about the horrid free throw shooting displayed by most college and NBA players. 

My statement was something like 'I haven't picked up a basketball in over a year and could go out and hit 7 out of 10 free throws without warming up'.  Don't think that's it exactly, but the idea is the same.  I truly believed I could walk out, not warm up at all, and hit 70 percent of my free throw attempts. 

Until last week I never had a chance to test that theory. 

I had to go to Dallas again and was bored one night after work.  Combined with an over zealous appetite at lunch (at Spring Creek in which I had my first peach cobbler) I was feeling restless, bloated and wanted to move around in an attempt to feel normal again. 

The Residence Inn by our Dallas office has a mini sized basketball court (but no fitness center which drives me nuts!  What hotel in this day and age doesn't have a gym?), so I went to the front desk to borrow a basketball from the cute front desk lady (what are we supposed to call the people at the front desk?  Attendants?  Agents?).  She got a surprisingly nice ball out from behind the counter and fucking gunned it at me.  A two handed chest pass from about 3 feet away that would have broken my face had I not caught it. 

She gave me a smirk, said 'Nice catch' and went back to her computer.  Things were not starting off well.

When I get to the court I notice there is some weird, plastic, mesh covering the court.  Below it looks like a regular basketball court, but it's covered by hard plastic with tiny squares.  One bounce on it and the ball makes almost no sound.  So there you go.  It's some sort of noise reduction flooring so non basketball playing guests won't be disturbed.  You have go to be kidding.

Back to the task at hand.  I head to the free throw line and it looks regulation, however, it's been a while since I've been on a standard court and my memory is no where close to what it used to be.  I'll just have to take it for granted that they got it right.  You'll see in a moment why I question this.

Sidenote:  My biggest concern isn't going 0 for 10 from the line.  It's my shoulder. Forget what you hear about hitting 40.  That was a piece of cake.  45 is when your body begins to rebel on you.  My entire personal infrastructure is crumbling.  Even worse, my brain hasn't fully realized it yet and thinks it can do what I did 10 years ago  In particular, my right shoulder FUCKING KILLS whenever I throw a baseball (which is great when your kid is in little league and wants you to throw to him every day the sun is out), lift anything over my head or...you know....shoot a basketball. 

A few weeks back the shoulder was feeling fine and I was goofing around with the boys in the driveway.  They've set up a seven foot rim so the youngest has a chance to score.  My oldest was getting impatient, stole the ball from his brother (even though they were on the same team) and immediately went up for a shot.  To teach him a lesson I jumped and reached as high as I could to block his shot.  Instantly searing pain shot through the shoulder.  My eyes watered and I had to take break from the game while my boys huddled around me wondering why Dad was nearly crying. 

Good times. 

Even still, I refused to warm up.  I had a goal and I was going to see it through.  I'd know soon enough if the shoulder was going to put an end to this. 

I get to the line, bounce quietly twice, bend the knees and take my first shot. 

BRICK.  It wasn't even an excusable brick.  It was off to the left and barely hit the rim.  I thought 'ohhhh, this could get ugly'. 

Second shot, good.  Third shot....good. 

See this isn't so hard, I thought as I bricked the fourth shot.  What am I now?  2 for 4, I think when I hear 'Whatcha doing?'

Standing by the gate to the court is a five or six year old boy who apparently was never taught not to talk to strangers.  I glance around and see no adults anywhere close. 

'I'm shooting free throws.  Want to help?'


'I shoot and you pass the ball to me.  I've only got six shots to go then you can play.'

He immediately runs over to stand directly under the basket.  I tell him to move a bit to the left so the ball doesn't land in his face.  He runs all the way to the fence.  'You don't have to go that far.  Make it half way between there and the basket.'

He moves a few steps and looks at me to see if he's where he should be.  I motion him over a bit more until satisfied he can get the ball without being killed by it. 

'Do you know how to count?' I ask.

'I counted all the way to 200 at school!'

'Wow, that's a lot, but you won't have to count that high.  I just need you to count how many shots I get in, ok?'

He nods, all serious like I've just asked him to take care of my dog for a week. 



I shoot, swish.

'That's one!' he says. 

'Actually, that's three. I hit two before you got here.  So I've hit three shots in five tries.'

'THREE!!' he agrees.

I should point out that the ball has rolled all the way to the fence and he's standing there staring at me. 

'OK, can you get the ball for me now?'

'Oh, sure!' and spins around to find it.  I point him in the direction and he half throws, half rolls it to me. 

'Nice work.  That's all you need to do.  Only five shots left'

Another brick which makes the kid laugh.  'That was a bad one'.  Thanks, Michael Jordan. 

He tracks the ball down and gets it back to me.  'You still only made three'.  Thanks again. 

I hit the next shot; one of those back rimmed deals that brings the ball right back to me.  He says 'Heyyy' then laughs. 

I go to take my next shot when I hear a woman's voice, 'Is he bothering you?'  Mother of the year has shown up with a younger girl who is trying to hide behind the mother's legs.  Before I can reply, the boy answers 'No, I'm helping!' and he jumps up and down.  I laugh and tell her he's fine.  'I only have a few more shots to go'.

She stands by the entrance while we continue.  I hit the next shot.  'That's five!' which surprises me because I thought it was four.  Too many distractions. 

Hit the next...

..and the next...

'Where we at, little man?' I ask the kid.  'Seven!' he replies.   There we go.  I made seven of ten free throws. 

'Great!  Did you want to play?'

'No, keep shooting!'

'Alright, but when I next miss the game is over, ok?'

'Yup!' and he turns his back to me to watch the rim. 

I hit the next....

...the next...

.......the next....

...........the next.....

And it keeps going.  I'm in such a groove that the balls are swishing through and coming right back to me.  Anyone who's played knows what I mean.  The ball has such exaggerated backspin it bounces directly back to it's origin point when it hits the ground.  This happens at least four times in a row which causes the boy to laugh each time.  

At one point the father shows up and asks what's going on.  The wife shushes him and says 'He hasn't missed since I got here'.

I ask the boy 'how many shots have I made?' and he looks at me in a panic: 'I forget!'

'That's ok'

And I keep going.  At one point I thought I had missed, but the ball did that front rim, back rim, backboard move and fell through.  I make a few more, then one clanks the back rim, goes straight up, hits the top of the backboard and fall straight through.  The boy laughs and the father says 'Now we're just getting ridiculous'.

I laugh, hit a few more in a row.  I wish I could give you an exact count, but mother, kid and I all lost count.  The boy thought it was over 20 in a row, but it was probably more like 15 or 16 in a row. 

What finally ended it, you ask?

I was in the process of taking a shot when my phone went off.  I had placed it in the corner because I knew the boys would be calling to say good night soon.  When it rang, I jerked and the shot went to the right. 

Two lessons to take from this:

1:  At one point a 45 year old crumbling excuse of a man shot better than most NBA players who get paid millions of dollars a year.  Remember that when LeBron is missing a critical free throw.  Coming soon to the playoffs near you.  

2:  Families ruin everything.

Perhaps also this:  You should have known this story worked out well for me or I never would have brought it up. 

Today's distraction:  Practice some crowd pleasing dunks with a hot chick in a bikini.  The space bar is all you need.

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