A Basement Athlete’s Testimony
Hi. My name is Adam and I am a recovering Deluded Athlete. Thanks to DA, I have been clean for 3 weeks, but…
Have you ever heard your voice on a recording? Is there anybody who hears that and doesn’t say “I don’t sound like that!” Everyone nearby tells you, “No, that’s really what you sound like.” That doesn’t help. Quickly you forget about it and go back to the ignorant bliss of hearing your own voice in your own head.
The familiar dismay of that experience…is exactly what I experience when I get an authentic glimpse at my actual athleticism.
As you all know well – I love sports. I had a delightful and relatively illustrious, youthful, 3 to 4-sport career. I don’t want to boast, but you are talking to a man who turned an unassisted triple play in 8 year old baseball, once hit 91 of 100 free throws in the driveway (as well as winning a 9 year old free throw contest at the Franklin, New Hampshire Rec. Center). Brace yourself – I’m the guy who, in 1999, struck out Mason Roberge 3 times in one game, under the lights! (Complete game, 10 strikeouts, in the grunt-like-Monica Seles-with-every-pitch era of my pitching career). I know you are impressed.
Vital side-note – My cousin Brian finished second in that free throw contest. I always relished pointing out how short his trophy was.
Apparently free throw superiority does not an athlete make.
I remember my first glimpse of a video of one of my basketball games – my bubble didn’t burst. It exploded.
My family always jabbed me about my lack of cat-like, physical prowess. I knew I didn’t possess the raw athleticism of Lebron or Usain Bolt. It’s just that I assumed that my limitations were more the Larry Bird brand of un-athleticism than the Brian Scalabrine vein of un-athleticism. The tale of the tape was sobering.
The game on the video was a perfect snapshot of why I fancy myself a real athlete. I didn’t play poorly. I scored 15ish points and played rock-solid defense. The problem was never respectable production, but rather how I looked pulling it off.
It was a play midway through the second quarter. To this day, my memory of the moment is crystal clear. I received the ball just over half-court, turned and darted – gazelle-like – across the three-point line, before pulling up and nailing an 18-foot jumper.
Upon further review, I apparently caught the ball just outside the 3-point line. The high-light reel footage then revealed a husky, 11 year old body impersonating a mix between a 90 year old man speed walking and a wounded animal. I shuffled forward five or six steps before pulling up and sinking the 18-foot jumper (set-shot). Yes! I had that final part right! Ah, outside shooting…the chunky, slow, white guy’s loyal friend.
My family – my own family – laughed with cruel pleasure, as the reality of the situation swept across my face.
I’ve since recovered. That’s the party line at least.
Listen…I do love sports. In the moment – I can get lost in almost any dramatic sports situation. Forget an October, Red Sox game…I can be briefly enraptured by any game coming down to the closing moments, with the result still in question. It grabs my attention and it won’t let go. Whether it’s game 7 of the World Series or this afternoon’s wiffle-ball game, where I faced a 3-run deficit with 2 outs in the final inning and the bases loaded with imaginary runners.
(Walk-off grand slam by the way…booyah.)
For better or for worse, any success I have ever had in sports was made through caring more passionately than everyone else. It was never through besting someone physically. I’m the type of person who takes every golf shot with the knowledge that the golf handicap required to enter a U.S. Open qualifier is 1.4. Just in case my 9.8 ever takes a precipitous drop of 8.4. I don’t expect to win a major or anything…I’ll just qualify for the Open as an unknown name and have an unexpected – yet magical – first three rounds, before grittily losing to Tiger or Phil, in a hard-fought playoff. I’m not unrealistic. I would obviously never win in that situation.
I’m the guy who won two (2), yes, TWO “110% Team Player” awards. Take that in. Move on.
I would love to be the sober, non-gambling Pete Rose. An MVP, yet the guy who would sacrifice life and limb to stretch a single into a double, pummel his body diving into 3rd base, or bowl the catcher over to win the meaningless, 1970 All-Star game.
Instead, I’m the guy who has convinced himself that tearing my ACL at 13 years old stunted my athletic career. The guy who remembers playing a full basketball game on an undiagnosed, torn ACL and broken tibia and still scored 8 points. The guy who therefore realistically assumed that I would have score 40 on a healthy leg. I had the heart of Charlie Hustle, Larry Legend, or Trot Nixon and I was even a starting player on most of my community sports league teams.
So what am I saying? I’m planning on golfing tomorrow. If I can break 80 then my handicap will be one step closer to 1.4 and the U.S. Open Trophy.
Wish me luck.