Friday, April 17, 2009

It was a moral victory... no, it wasn't even that. (Septathlon 2)

The Septathlon: EVENT 1:
You know you're in trouble, in a basketball game, when your opponent isn't even winded but your eyes are stinging with sweat, you're breathing heavily, you're a little dizzy, and you're somewhat concerned that you can feel your pulse in your brain and that just might be the first sign of a stroke.

You know you're in trouble if that happens. You know that you're sunk if that happens... in the first minute of the game.

That's where I was at, exactly one minute into the opening round of The Septathlon, the Basketball Round. We decided, since it was The Boy's event, that I'd play him first, then Middle would play him second, each in a fifteen minute game.

So The Boy warmed up while I talked to Middle and tied and re-tied my shoe, repeatedly emptying it out, something I had to do because I couldn't find my beloved Starbury basketball shoes -- I think I might have thrown them out after accidentally stepping on a raccoon corpse in them last summer -- and so I had to wear my ordinary, every day tennis shoes, the ones I'd just worn to rake the leaves and so they were covered in muck and had twigs in them.

That is not the reason that I did not do so well, though, in basketball. The reason I did not do so well in basketball is because I stink at basketball.

I can't dribble with my left hand, for one thing, not well. And I can't shoot to save my life. I used to be able to rebound pretty well, but that was when The Boy was a lot younger, and shorter.

Now, the only thing I've got going for me against him is my intellect, which is next to useless when I'm not getting enough oxygen to my brain.

He opened the game by letting me start with the ball, and within seconds I'd taken my shot and it was 0-0 with him getting the ball. Then within seconds it was 2-0, then 4-0, and I really didn't know what was happening anymore as I tried to catch my breath.

"How much time is left?" I asked Middle, who was referreeing.

"Fourteen minutes," she said.

I spent the next fourteen minutes alternating between my two offensive moves: Dribble (right-handed only) as fast as I could towards the basket until I run into The Boy, then step back and shoot wildly at the rim, or, pretend I'm going to do that, pull up, and clank a 3-point attempt.

The Boy, meanwhile, had moves and can dribble between his legs and do something he calls a "hook-jump" shot, and is so calm about it that he can routinely refer to himself as a basketball player while doing that. "Here goes Kobe," he'd say and dribble, spin, turn, shoot, and make the shot.

I couldn't even match him at that: When I tried to think of a basketball player, the only one I could come up with was John Stackhouse.

I'd like to say I made it close, but I didn't. The closest I came was making it 12-4, and the final score finished at 22-7, as I made a 3-pointer near the end. It should have been a six-pointer, because by that time I could barely see straight and was devoting most of my energy to trying to recall what it was like when I'd been 20 and could move laterally. Also, I got a foul called in my favor and missed both shots.

Middle fared better, but not much. Middle has actual basketball background, having played on teams and such, but also hasn't played any basketball, really, since she tore her ACL in basketball tryouts a few years ago and had to have surgery. When it was 4-0, The Boy leading, I made him take a timeout to tie his shoe ("I don't need to have tied shoes," he said) and said to Middle:

"You're not playing much defense." To which she said:

"I can't. I can't shuffle with my knee, so I have to let him move around."

Middle also has the ability to dribble with both hands -- I understand that's quite important in basketball -- and to make shots. She can, for example, make a lay-up, something I've only done once in my life.

The lay-up is supposed to be easy. I've been afraid to even try a lay-up since middle school. Back then, in 6th grade, we were learning basketball. All the boys were on one side of the gym, the girls on the other. I was exactly as uncoordinated and awkward as you'd expect an overweight, comic-book-loving kid with glasses to be. We were lined up and told to do lay-ups, and when my turn came, I ran and tried to put the ball up and shot it up right over the backboard and behind the basket, with it coming down cleanly on the other side, having touched nothing on its way.

I was going to just slink back to the back of the line and spend my time thinking about comics and dreading the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, but the gym teacher, Mr. Fry, yelled: "Nice shot, Pagel. Do that again."

He then made me try another lay-up, with everybody watching. That one, too, went right over the backboard.

Middle doesn't suffer from that kind of skill, but she couldn't play defense much and was rusty from not playing in years, whereas The Boy devoted a substantial amount of his free time over the winter to playing basketball (taking time away from such unnecessary activities as homework and cleaning his room.)

The final score of Middle's game against The Boy was 20-8.

That's right: with a medical inability to play defense, Middle did better than me at defense.

Next Week's Event: Golf. Just as soon as I have a complete cardio workup.

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