So many big, important topics. Well, okay, two huge, important topics, one involving my potential future, and here I am instead talking about...well...me.
A few weeks ago I posted something saying the next basketball game might be my last time being aggressive, competitive, etc. and someone quite reasonably asked why.
I know I have mentioned it before, but I must mention it again. My competitive drive was legendary when i was growing up. It was not unusual for me to play basketball one on three. I preferred it to two on two because I knew I was better than my teammate and every shot he took was worse than any shot I took.
This sounds like a brag...but it is not. When I played with teammates, I used them, passed them the ball, then went and got the rebound when they missed and scored.
At the risk of sounding ego maniacal, I took some really poor teammates and won games against much better teams in terms of sheer talent.
You will never hear me not admit that Kyle is a better shooter than me...or, for that matter, so is Billy. Kyle is quicker, more agile. Ivan was taller and stronger, as was Susee. Frank could jump higher. Woody was stronger.
I just had more of a drive to win. A harsh, bitter, all-encompassing desire.
I could take guys like Jim Johnson, who did not know a double dribble from the Hubble telescope and beat Kyle and Billy by 6 or 7 points playing to 20. In terms of sheer talent, they had us by a 3 to 1 margin.
But in terms of competitive fire...I had all of them combined by 20 to 1.
This is a good thing if you are an athlete as a career.
It is not a good thing if you are playing games with friends. In the long run, who knows how many games we played or how many games were won by whom? (There was a time I could have come close to telling you, because keeping score mattered).
One reason that was bad was how I could at times react to certain types of players...guys who took cheap shots, through elbows, stuff like that.
Competitiveness + resentment = chance for explosion.
Tonight we had our last game of the 7 game season. It was a close game the whole way. They had these two oversize, bumbling brutes who were just outright dirty.
I took several shots to the back, neck, and side.
In the old days on the second one I would have laid one of them out. This time I pointed it out to the referee, he called a couple fouls on them, it settled down.
I have to admit I was playing exceptionally well. I was something like 5 of 7 from the field, 3 of 4 from the free throw line, had numerous rebounds and was moving the ball really well.
Then they started throwing cheap shots again the referees had no chance of seeing...because they were completely away from the play and had nothing to do with the game.
In a rare show of maturity* I took myself out of a 1 point game with just over three minutes to go.
This is nigh unbelievable. In games like this, I want...no, DEMAND the ball because I know I will score and win the game.
But I took myself out because the fury was building. I knew I was about to retaliate. And winning simply is no longer worth that. I try hard to live as a Christian, and that includes following Scriptures that are sometimes difficult...like remembering the Fruit of the Spirit includes self-control.
One way of showing self-control is removing one self from a bad situation. And I did so.
It was tough sitting on the bench seeing play after play I knew I would have made not get made...but it felt like the right thing to do.
And then one of our guys got tired of a big stiff deliberately cheap shotting him right in front of the official and laughing about it. So he asked me into the game.
I went in, we had the ball a shot went up and I took not one, not two, but three elbows ON THE SIDE OF THE BASKET AWAY FROM THE BALL. Again, this has absolutely NOTHING to do with basketball but should have been called.
I turned to the ref, asked if he was going to call it, he said no, so I threw an admittedly dirty, cheap, vicious elbow right in the small of the back of the last guy who got me.
And instantly got called for a technical.
Funny part is...the time ran out before the technical was called so it did not count.
The sad part is that I did it. Inexcusable, unjustifiable, and something I started regretting about two minutes later.
But the damage is done.
I let me competitive nature drive me to physical retaliation instead of just laughing it off as I should.
A month from now...or even an hour from now, who cares what the score was? A meaningless game in a tiny league between two way below average teams does not matter.
My loss of self-control does.
It shames me.
It reminds me why I try very hard to play non-competitively now because I cannot, I will not let attitudes like that develop.
It would be very easy to make excuses for my behavior, and to some extent it feels like that is what I have done in this post.
But I am not making excuses. I had a choice, I made a choice, and it was the wrong choice.
I regretted it and continue to regret it. It is a part of me I have worked hard to suppress and do not want to allow back into my life.
That is why I am not aggressive any more.
* Not true. In my later years I have made a habit of removing myself from volatile situations, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, rather than harm someone, even someone I know to be very far in the wrong. I have done so at what I feel is a tremendous cost to myself, but done so specifically because I believe the greater good was served in this way.
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