a bit of braggingPosted: March 27, 2013
Summer open gym was pure joy. We would run up and down the floor, winner stays on. Each dribble echoing throughout the open spaces of the empty gym, shoes squeaking against the fine wood floor as we jockeyed for position under the glass. I recall it as the joy of motion, cemented by the swwwickkk as the leather ball settled gently over the rim and into the embracing net. No refs or fans to mar the experience, just guys hustling, breathing hard, calling for the ball inside that beautiful gym.
Our collection of farm kids and townies collected around the single outside hoop waiting for Coach to open the doors. Somebody tossed an old worn outdoors ball up, and it gonged like a bell each time it hit the tight rims. The cool guys held court while the rest of us stood silently about nodding or laughing as if it would make us cool too.
We turn to a horn and two cars pull up and out piled James H_ and the inner city guys from Ashtabula High who had beaten us time and time again since we were sixth graders. I could feel everyone deflate.
James H_ was a bit of legend, a golden gloves boxer, star player and bigger than life. He could trash talk, not vile like today, but mocking and funny. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly he was under the basket holding court, and we were all jettisoned and he surrounded by an impenetrable force field.
Tired of waiting, he called for a ball, and the ball, our ball bounced into his hand. “Who wants to play me?” He openly challenged. I looked to the cool kids, our six foot seven center was silent. Our star guard silent. James got wilder and funnier, “Is everyone afraid to play me?” It got worse, not mean, but funny and he was right. We were a bunch of wusses.
“OK, I’ll play you.” He looked my five foot seven one hundred-fifty pounds soaking wet frame up and down and laughed.
“Check” and handed me the ball dropping into defensive posture, not bothering to argue about first possession. He took me lightly and didn’t know my game, and when I took him left for the wining seventh point and dropped it in over his outstretched fingers I looked over at him and said “Game,” the only word I spoke during the entire match.
He was silent for a second, and then “Two out of three, come’on it’s gotta be two outta three”. I laughed. He won the next two, but it didn’t matter, the legend was a mortal man.
The moral: Try it, you just might succeed