Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Morning Sporting Event

Do you remember how to play horse? I might have eternally forgotten except that we had a rousing game on the island Wednesday. You see, basketball was something I played a bit of when I was quite young. It was fun sometimes and frustrating sometimes for several reasons, not the least of them my diminutive stature. Anyway, I was in junior high school, probably 8th grade though I forget for certain. At that time a certain something began happening to the bodies of my peers that made the stature issue of rapidly increasing concern. I don’t remember why I wasn’t playing myself but, one day in gym class, I was watching a game from the sideline. There was this kid who was at least a head taller than who dribbled in for a lay-up. When he was about to jump and shoot he crashed into a substantially larger kid who was guarding the basket. Now I say “crashed into” but it was more like “bounced off of” and he fell directly to the floor with the ball rolling slowly across the key. Something about the way little David bashed himself against that wall of human flesh penetrated my mind in a way that few things have and I decided then and there that whatever God had made me for it was not this game. As a consequence I’ve seldom played since and then only when pressed to. That being said I’m sure you have some idea why I might have altogether forgotten to play horse had I not been in fact pressed by my job and played with the boys the other day.

Having not had great skills in the first place and certainly not maintained what I had I was the first person out. This was especially the case as Matt (Yes! I get to use code names again!) was in line before me. I didn’t know this about Matt but it turns out he’s a pretty good ball player who has a pretty good sense for the whole calculus of the game. One of the first things he did was ask if I was right- or left-handed. Telling him was a mistake because then he made every shot left-handed. These weren’t regular shots either. Everything involved some weird angle, or required putting the spin just so on the ball, or shooting without seeing the basket. My only hope was that a couple of times he made them complicated enough that he missed them himself. It was nowhere near good enough for me to last however.

Anyway, one by one people were shot out, mostly by Matt until no one was left except Percy. In order to appreciate the rest of this you have to know something about Percy. He’s a tall lanky kid but may be in the second to last place of all kids I’ve known on the island for motor coordination. In other words he’s about as awkward as they get. But because he had been the last in line and Matt was first he had been protected through the game and had not acquired any letters. It was thus that the competition began when Percy shot from the top of the key and made the basket. Matt failed to duplicate and got his first letter. Percy missed his next shot (not dexterous) but Matt missed his as well. They went back and forth a couple of times when Matt finally chose a shot he could make without too much trouble and against odds Percy made the shot himself. Matt became very concerned about this situation and his shooting suffered for it. The two went back and forth making odd shots but somehow Percy kept up and the two were neck and neck. Finally it came down to the last letter. Who would get the ‘e’? Matt made a left-handed lay up that required bouncing off of the right side of the backboard. Percy had been missing this sort of shot so it seemed to be done. He dribbled up and nearly tripped over himself but the ball went in. Matt’s next shot was an underhanded “granny” shot from very close to the basket but he missed and Percy got a free shot. He stood up next to the key on the left side and made a casual jump shot. In the ball went, and the line of players who were out made slight gasps. “Don’t let it get in your head, Matt” somebody said. He got into position to make the shot and the ball hit the front of the rim rolled off to the other side. Percy won.