Joe’s eyes flicked up to the clock. 7 seconds left, and the C-list Celebrities were on the wrong side of the 52-51 score.
He smirked inwardly. Playing 50 minutes and having just 51 points, to still be in the game was ridiculous…but then again, it was kind of the epitome of rec-league basketball. These were not highly tuned athletic bodies engaged in spirited athletic competition but instead has-beens, wanna-bes, and never-weres throwing up bad shots against worse defense and seeing what would happen.
Oh, sure, there was the occasional good basketball play. A drive to the hoop here, a spinning post move there, a nice rebound, the occasional better than average pass. But for the most part this was a game between out of shape, pedestrian basketball players who were fortunate to hit the backboard with a shot, much less score.
Out of shape. That was perhaps the best description of Joe himself.
In his younger days he could play for hours. It was not unusual for him to play basketball for four or five hours at a stretch. Half-court, full-court, 5 on 5, 4 on 4, even 1 on 1 did not much matter. He just wanted to play.
If nobody else was around and available he would practice his dribbling, shooting, and post moves for hours on end by himself.
He would play one on one, two on two, one on two…whatever it took to get a game or at least some time playing ball.
He had never been everything a basketball player should be. He had pedestrian strength, slightly above average leaping ability, and decent stamina. He was quick, though not fast. He would never beat anyone in a hundred yard dash, for example. For that matter, a 40-yard dash was not his cup of tea either.
But put a defender up on him and he would use his lightning quick first step to blow by them and get to the rim.
As age and lack of activity took over, however, he lost that quickness even as he added bulk. But it was not the good bulk, the toned, muscular bulk of an athlete. Instead it was the bad bulk…a lot of fast food, comfort food, soda but not the exercise levels needed to keep from ballooning into the massive excess weight puddle together and kindly called love handles.
He was not morbidly obese but he was certainly not slender, either.
Running up and down a court for 30,40 or 50 minutes straight was no longer a good idea, though. He did not have the energy of youth and now the pounding on his knees and back left aches for three, four, sometimes five days after playing.
From time to time after a particularly exhausting game he would wonder if it was still worth it to play, but then the thrill of competition would bring him back.
At least he had been able to find good competition. Sure, he was no longer running up and down the court with guys who could dunk, hit the three, and similar basketball activities, but he had found his own level.
The guys he played against now were like him. They mostly knew how to play but no longer had the physical tools. As a result, the games were close.
Like this one. The game would be decided by this possession in the next seven seconds.
Nobody was open so Joe flashed to the top of the key, making himself available for the inbound pass. Well, flashed was the wrong word…he moved as quickly as his middle-aged knees and flopping gut would allow him, keeping his bulk between his defender and the inbound. This was good and bad. The good part was he was open.
The bad part meant the inbound pass came to him at the top of the key. Now he had the ball and seven seconds left to find a way for the C-list Celebrities to score a basket and win the game.
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