Sunday, April 3, 2011

Church League Basketball and Why I'm not a Contender anymore...

Middle of the third quarter, we are winning...and a guy bumps me underneath the goal while I'm up in the air for a rebound.  I don't fall, but I get really irritated.  Next time down, he bumps me again...

I go to center court, as they bring up the ball.  "That's my ball", I said, pointing to it.  I took the ball from him and made a layup.  

Back to center court...scene repeats itself.


My team calls a timeout.  One of my best friends in the world, at the time, meets me on the court and says, "Why don't you sit down and rest a minute."

I look back at my team, and they are all down on the defensive end...looking at their shoes, or the lights, but not at me.  

Walking to the bench, a guy from the other team, Jim, stops me.  "Scott, you're good, but your up 45 points man, give me a break."

The score was 65 - 20.

As I sat down, my wife leans down to me and says, "Look over there...".  The other team's stands were filled.   My wife was the only person sitting on our side.  "I've never been more embarrassed to be your wife....that kid is thirteen."

So I was 30.  What difference does that make...I thought.  

The fact that I was overly competitive had dawned on me once or twice, but never had I seen it bare it's teeth like that night.  Something inside of me broke.  I was ashamed.  

Fast forward 10 years later...

I haven't played basketball for over 3 years.  Of the last 2 games I've played, I wound up having micro-fracture surgery on my right knee, followed by 6 weeks on a couch...and 9 months of rehab...only to come back and get undercut and break my wrist in the next game back.  6 weeks in a cast, and another 2 months of rehab.  

"I'm not gonna lecture you Scott, but you might think about slowing down just a bit", the doctor had said.

I'm not against competition, not at all.  But I couldn't answer a question I'd come to ask myself, "What, exactly are you trying to accomplish?"  I realized that I am against a rabid need to win.  I see it in college athletics.  I see it in high school athletics.  I see it in little league. 

I wonder if we've seen the death of true competition.  To compete is to put forth your best, lay it out there and see...check, or test yourself, on faring against others.  Combining a need to win with competition creates an imbalance in your're trying to feed yourself on something intended for enjoyment.  You compete, you win, you lose, you shake your opponents hand, or give him a hug.  When you need to win, and don't, you  turn inside of yourself...if not checked, you can turn hateful.

I turned to athletics as a coping mechanism, for some dark years of my life...couple that with the Lord's blessing of a fairly athletic body with good coordination, and you wake up one day as a beast of sorts.  

Sports should be fun.  I could cartwheel onto a soapbox about professional sports, or little league select teams, but that's not my bag.  I don't know how to fix things of that magnitude.  

The last few years that I played basketball, I focused on the latter part of Michael Jordan's career.  He became an excellent leader, and a player who made his whole team better.  The days of Michael taking the last shot, in a clear out situation were long gone.  He spent time on the bench as well.   

Life has so much to offer, if you actually go and live "the life" part of a life...  Tucking yourself into a cocoon of  minor league, or neighborhood league, or city league stardom simply isn't worth it...if, that is, it costs you as much as it did me.  

I play golf now, and run (or at least I say I do).  I play against the course, and against myself.  Only rarely will I actually admit that I'd like to beat the person I'm with...  I'd also be honest to say that in is fun to want your partners to hit good shots, and to make putts...everybody can enjoy it.

It isn't that I subscribe to the notion that we can all be winners, though I think it is true of me.  When you enter into the ultra competitive world of athletics, Who you know, or Who your dad knows, or What team you are on, and a whole host of other non-sports related issues factor into the game.  I long for the days of my youth, when my country town had a little league, and we played the other towns around...nobody switched teams, nobody drafted...there were no select teams....just a bunch of 8-10 year olds wishing their uncle would give them some chewing tobacco...and that they wouldn't get caught.  

I've never beaten myself at golf.  I've never beaten a course...even one that's only 13 years old.

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