With Carl and Chris covered, the next option was Jeff. Having in-bounded the ball, Jeff had sprinted to the right baseline. Joe looked that way, but Jeff’s defender had shaded him and there was no passing lane.
It was not overly surprising. While this league did have two referees calling the game, it was really glorified rat-ball. It was like playing a pick-up game with referees and jerseys.
Whereas in his prime Joe would not have considered playing on a team capable of entering the last possession without a plan, of getting down to just four seconds left on the clock with no play designed to get a shot off, on this team it was to be expected.
Gone were the days when he played on teams that spent hours practicing. Pin-downs, double screens, cross-screens, pick and rolls were all things designed to get good shots. Here the plan was to inbound to whoever was open first, everyone go to their favorite spot, and hope.
Though the rules were largely the same, this was not the same game Joe had grown up playing, had gone through school playing and even had a cup of coffee in the NBA playing.
These players thought practice meant going to an empty gym and heaving up improbable shots that they would never take in a game.
SHOULD never take in a game, he amended his thought. He had seen some shots taken that made H.O.R.S.E. shots look ridiculous. Even worse, the guys taking them regarded them as good shots.
Joe had always preferred shots with a good percentage chance of success. His worst shooting year in organized ball had been 44% and that had been the year he fell in love with the three point shot.
Looking back, that had also been the year that was the beginning of the end of his organized basketball career. It wasn’t that he could not hit the three. He was a little below average, but was hitting about 30% of them, still a respectable number but not a good number.
But towards the end of his career he had stopped driving to the basket and started taking more threes. He had convinced himself he was a better shooter than he actually was and justified a lot of them. In truth, it had been a result of his declining skills but he had not recognized it himself.
Still, the coaching staff ran enough plays for him that he still got a few easier shots and scored reasonably well. That was the advantage of having set plays. You could count on getting open looks in situations that made sense.
In this league, he often would post up with good position but his teammates did not recognize the scoring opportunity, instead jacking up their own, often contested shot. Having no plays was one of the detriments to playing in this type of league.
It also meant the Celebrities did not have a good plan to generate a likely scoring opportunity in the closing moments of the game.
Jeff had a good idea to sprint to the corner, but when his defender went with him instead of double-teaming, it essentially took him out of the play.
With no set play to fall back on, it was going to be up to Joe to find an opening to score the game-winning bucket. It was a shot that could not be taken in fear.
Fear had almost derailed his career in organized basketball before it ever started. When he entered junior high he had been very excited about playing on the basketball team. However, the day of physicals he had missed school with an illness that kept him out for a week.
By the time he got back, the horror stories being told by the guys who had taken the physical of what it entailed had so frightened him that he had not tried out for the team because he was so afraid of the physical.
When he did try out in 8th grade he was a year behind in developing a team game. It took all he had to summon the courage to go in for the physical. The taunting the other guys had given him about what they had gone through had festered in his mind, growing into the proverbial two-ton gorilla on his back and terrifying him to the point he almost elected to not even play team sports at all.
Far better to avoid them and the grueling, humiliating invasive nature of the physical, or at least so he was almost convinced.
Ultimately, however, his competitive spirit allowed him to overcome that fear.
But fear had its uses, too. He was afraid of losing his hard-won spot on the team so he drove himself hard in practice and games. He was afraid of losing games, so he expended every ounce of effort he had during the games.
Fear of failing had proven a powerful spur and carried him to unprecedented levels of accomplishments once he got over his unfounded fears based on hyperbole and the unknown.
By the time he reached college he was noted for his fearlessness.
Then his career ended and he had become just another face in the crowd. Going to work, building a family, he was just another average Joe.
When the desire had entered him to start playing again, he had again hesitated, facing fear. Fear he would not be as good as he had been. Fear he would embarrass himself. Fear he would injure himself. Fear he could not run or jump. Fear he could not shoot. Fear he could not defend.
Fear, fear, fear.
Everywhere he looked the game he once lived and breathed caused fear.
Fortunately, his wife was very supportive and provided him the impetus to get back on the floor.
He went back to playing and found some of his fears justified. He was no longer capable of playing at a high level. But at least he was playing.And now he was in one of those situations he feared…needing to score and unsure of himself. He was afraid of letting the team down.
What I wanted to say - Dear Tootie, You are no longer suffering, and for that I am grateful. I've gone through so many feelings since you left this world Saturday. Grief, relief...
2 months ago