by Sam N. Yago
How good intentions can have disastrous results.
|And that is why, to this day, I blame my parents for my complete disdain for playing basketball.|
I should probably explain. Let me take you back quite a few years ago.
I was thirteen, introverted, and a little on the chubby side. Okay, okay, I was a fat kid. I loved to eat, and Mom's delicious cooking didn't make it any easier for me to avoid over-consumption. I never reached any technical level of obesity, mind you, but in a culture where slightness was an irritatingly general condition of the population at large-- this was in the Philippines, by the way-- I stuck out like a bloated thumb. It also didn't help that most of the activities I enjoyed at the time were of a sedentary nature: drawing, playing piano, basically anything that involved my derriere being comfortably settled in a chair. This, of course, worried my parents. They feared I would get fatter over time and maybe even develop heart disease. Very legitimate concerns. So, they thought it would be a good idea for me to get into sports. I'm quite certain my eyes glazed over when I heard that recommendation.
The solution: basketball. It was a sport, and all that running and moving and everything will surely be enough exercise for me to break away from my non-athletic lifestyle and lead to much-needed weight-loss. But, why basketball in particular? It sort of made perfect sense in a lot of ways. First, and I'm not really sure why, Filipinos love basketball. There was something about American basketball that struck a chord in our culture. Ergo, my father was into basketball while growing up, so much so that he made varsity all through college, and my older brother, perhaps intent on following in my father's athletic footsteps, developed a knack for it as well. He, naturally, became so good at it that he was in the varsity team through high school. And so it was decided: my brother would teach me to play basketball. Hooray.
To say the results were excruciatingly pathetic would be an understatement. The weeks of lessons with Big Bro that would follow that pivotal parental mandate were incredibly frustrating. I never became "one with the ball" that any random spectator (with a kind heart) would've steered me away from the sport altogether. But, that wasn't to be. So, the lessons continued. And I didn't get any better. Sure, I would make a few baskets, but the ratio of complete versus incomplete shots was somewhere in the realm of one out of every two thousand attempts. It was akin to teaching a fish how to walk.
Oh, it gets better. My parents somehow convinced my brother to join me in the community intramural basketball league, because why the hell not? My brother, after all, was the head of the league-- (of course)-- and can easily insert me into his team roster. Somewhere, somehow, this became a great idea. And, it happened. I one day found myself donning a jersey with my last name emblazoned on the back, and I started to wonder what a heart attack truly felt like.
Over the years, I developed quite a horrid memory that reminiscing with friends and family turns into a painful round of Double Jeopardy where I always lose. But there are certain memories-- those of a traumatic nature-- that forgetting is not an option. One such memory was my first (and only) league game.
It was a humid Thursday evening, and the townsfolk gathered at our open-air basketball court for a night of sport. The community intramural league was a big deal. The kids in the various sections of Pasay City and the surrounding townships took it very seriously that I knew after watching the first quarter from the bench how ridiculously out of place I was. When the opportunity arose, I sidled up to my brother (who was also the team coach) and begged him to keep me benched all night. After all, our parents weren't in the audience-- which, come to think of it, probably should've pissed me off then seeing how much importance they placed on me becoming a "baller." To my delight, my brother agreed, especially since he wanted to get a win that night, and didn't want me ruining the team's chances. Anyone else would've been offended by that, but not me. I was relieved.
The game progressed, and our team was doing fantastically, managing to keep a ten- to twelve-point lead over the opposition. It was at the start of the fourth quarter that, to my utter shock, my brother suddenly decided to put me into the game. "We're leading anyway," he said. I felt so helpless that I couldn't even muster a protest. My legs were rubbery and traversing the court felt like walking through quicksand. "Remember, just shoot the ball as soon as you have it," said my brother, all sage-like. Oh, because I'm an amazing shot, is that why?
You know those crazy bad dreams where everything moves in slow motion? The five minutes I was in that game seemed to last a lifetime. I tried to avoid the ball at all costs, as if touching it would mean a certain, quick death. Then it happened-- I somehow got the ball, and I instantly felt all eyes upon me. Just shoot the ball as soon as you have it, I heard my brother's voice in my head. Never mind that I was on the other team's end of the court. Never mind that all those dribbling lessons I muddled through in the weeks before probably would've helped to get me closer to the basket, increasing my chances of at least making it seem like I was aiming for it. But my brother's directive pounded into my consciousness in that split second that it was the only course of action I deemed appropriate. So, I took my shot.
It landed at half court, about twenty feet from where I stood. My intramural league debut shot was an air ball in the strictest definition of the term. The laughter from the crowd was deafening. Had I a tendency to wet my pants, I would've done so in that moment, giving yet another reason to garner the audience's ridicule. My brother quickly pulled me from the game. Too little, too late. I sat back on the bench like a zombie, trying hard not to pay attention to the snide remarks from the spectators nearby. Kudos to me for not losing it right then and there. I waited until we got home that night to unleash my emotions. I must have cried for two hours.
I've never played basketball again since that night, and the bitterness at my parents disappeared over time. Nowadays, I enjoy watching the games, even though I never cared to learn all the technicalities of it. For instance, don't ask me to distinguish one type of foul over another. And you couldn't pay me any amount of money to convince me to get back on a court, even for a pick up game.
And, you know what, I'm alright with that.