Spirit Of Competition

I don’t know what it is about Olympic time but it turns far out of shape men into the failed high school jocks they were. I was at a cookout where the host brought out a TV so we wouldn’t miss a moment of the majesty. I was okay to be stuck watching basketball when we all know what a fan I am so would much rather have been watching rhythmic gymnastics.

I enjoy watching sports so I’m pretty calm with my viewing habits. I didn’t get either fever (patriotic or sportive) nor did it wind me into getting up and tossing the old horsehide around. But something happens to the more casual sports fan during the Olympics. That thing, in technical terms, is they lose their fucking minds.

They forget they’re decades past the prime they didn’t come close to accomplishing what the last finisher in any event will. But does that stop them? Not as long as there’s a field of dreams, my friend. It’s at this moment they experience what can only be described as delusions of gamer.

It starts out pretty simple. Just a couple o’ guys tossing a ball back and forth. They repeatedly asked if I wanted to join in but I had two things in my ‘letting this one pass’ favor: being left-handed there was not a suitable glove in the house. The second is, I had no fucking desire to be that far away from my frosty adult beverage.

So I got to sit there sipping watching this simple childs game escalate. At first there were a couple of louder snaps of leather as the ball picked up some speed. It wasn’t until I heard a snap most identified with bullwhips that I turned my chair around to face them. I sure as hell didn’t want to miss this.

I’m not saying a guy bringing some heat is a bad thing. It was what this desire would accomplish that was questionable. What was accomplished was a sick, echoing crack of a hardball against the side of a wooden structure. Oh sure, it’s fun and games until someone loses a shingle.

The host decides to reign in this event and try to move the testosterone feast onto something less damaging. It was a noble attempt but one doomed to fail. What he didn’t understand was that this bull had left the chute and nothing short of a stunning victory or agony of defeat would stop it.

“Hey, why don’t you go to the basement?”

Sounds interesting. Maybe a little Greco-Roman wrestling, some pommel horse work, maybe a little random drug testing.

“I have a ping pong table down there.”

Fuck.

Don’t get me wrong, I like table tennis. I’m a pretty good player but, in this group, I’m Ma Fucking Lin. I know what happens when you get guys in a ‘friendly’ game like this.

When I was on the tennis tour I was at a guy’s house and we went to the basement. Playing in this format it’s winner plays on. I let everyone play first, not because I thought I was too good, but, honestly, it was a day off from racket sports as far as I was concerned.

I finally get pulled into the game and, after watching everyone play, I knew this could be a long day at the table for me. I mean, I could have tanked to get in and out but I’m not that type of person. I was once pitching to my girlfriends daughter before a ballgame and hit her with a pitch because she was crowding the plate. Hey! I own the inside!

Oh, relax! I didn’t hurt her.

Much.

It turns out I was right. It was a long day. Two, two and a half hours. After everyone else had dropped out the owner of the house just wouldn’t let it go. He was losing his shit with each loss. I’m sure it didn’t help when I started keeping a beer in my open hand when I wasn’t serving. I wasn’t showing off. I did it because I knew it would push him over the edge and maybe, just maybe, he’d die.

Down in this basement, again, I let everyone play. I sort of hoped the rush of competition would die off before I got a turn. It didn’t work out that way so, after I ran through the cycle a couple of times, a few guys dropped out but others couldn’t believe just how fucking lucky I was. After I pull the old ‘drink in my free hand’ bit one guy gets so pissed he really bears down. All that accomplished was, while running to his backhand, he slipped and banged his head on the table.

“Hey,” I hear the host say. “There’s a basketball court down the street.”

I didn’t blame him for trying to limit the damage, but, taking a look at the gathered masses, I hoped there was a crash cart nearby.

We do a quick shoot-around then choose sides. I’m not friends with most of the guys so get passed over a couple of rounds. But, as had to happen, I get chosen and, how’s this for a surprise, the guy who banged his noggin made sure I was not on his team. He’s got six inches and a hundred plus pounds on me. Boy, do I hope he guards me. I may have lost a step or seven but I’m still able to see my dick.

The game begins shortly before the wind sucking does. We’re playing to twenty and by the score of 4-2 and there are grumbles to call next basket wins. I’m not winded in the least. I’m jogging half speed back and forth and the guy guarding me (ping pong pud) hasn’t been close enough to me to spit check much less hand check me.

Although I wasn’t actually responsible I was dribbling the ball when the bodies began to hit the floor. I set-up a give and go at the top of the key so the guy who was covering me at the change had to spin around to reposition himself. While doing that he trips over his own feet and kerplunk! A guy from our team helped him up and volunteered to sit out so the sides would remain even. Gee, what a sportsman!

A couple of other guys start coming up with solid reasons why we should only play to ten. Things like the wife may want to leave, kids may be cranky, they have the heart rate of a humming bird, you know, the classics.

At 8-6 it’s decided we’ll stop at ten. While this timeout is going on I look over to the guy guarding me. He’s talking to a couple of teammates and I can tell they’re going to put the final push on to catch up and surge ahead!

I didn’t have a good feeling about this. I wasn’t afraid of losing (I’m not that competitive an asshole) but I was concerned that, if anyone out there exerted more effort, bad things could happen. But, what do I care? My insurance is good.

I try to inbound the ball while the guy guarding me is jumping around doing a mime version of the song, ‘YMCA’. I head fake left and inbound the ball over his head. I’m three steps ahead of him when I get the ball. I stop at the foul line pretty much unguarded. I did have to go through some congestion at mid-court because that’s where most of the players had taken to playing. Step over the centerline, they’re on offense, a step back over, defense. It’s the middle-age mid-court method.

After we score, I jog back to play defense, after excusing myself to the mid-courters, to see that, with the spirit of the Olympics surging through them (it resembled heartburn if you need a description), two guys are making a run for it. I take my position and wait. For a surging juggernaut it sure seemed to take them a long time to get to me. But, nonetheless, they arrive.

And stop.

At the top of the key the ball handler leans on his thigh and implores me with his eyes not to come near him just yet. I back off and watch a bunch of guys who should know better (some of them are middle managers for fucks sake!) limping and rubbing their shoulders and backs like it was a masseuse convention.

I just wanted to get this over before someone did something so bad to their body that I’d laugh hard enough to blow snots outta my nose. I knew that’s what would happen so, with the speed of a jackrabbit who’s sold three of his good luck charms, I stepped up, stole the ball and jogged down court for an uncontested lay-up.

I could tell the opponents were pissed. Not that I’d scored, but that one of them was going to have to walk down court to get the ball. But, after a frantic game of rock/paper/scissors ping pong pud gets the ball and draws a bead on me. I figured after a few steps he’d slow down but he did something I couldn’t have anticipated. He keeps coming. I stand my ground and notice that, by my estimation, he left the ground about two feet before he should have.

At this moment I have two options: take the charge from this fat, sweaty guy who wants to show me a thing or two or I can step aside and watch the carnage like everyone else. So I step off and watch his expression to go from ‘Oh yeah!’ to ‘Oh shit!’ in 1.6 seconds.

With his girth all of six inches airborne I watched as he released the ball frantically in an attempt to get it anywhere near the basket but, mostly I’d have to assume, hopefully try to keep his body from kissing asphalt. Two failures in one play! That’s a hard one to top!

As he collapses in a grunting groaning heap I grab the board (because it fell into my hands), toss it to a teammate at half court who seemed perturbed to be disturbed, but, nonetheless, gamely dribbled to the other end where he dropped in a lay-up.

As people start limping off the court I take up the rear because I had to get the ball. The reason I had to get the ball is because I was the only one left who could bend over to accomplish such a momentous feat of athleticism.

I get back to the party to see disdain ripple across the party as grown men gingerly approached their wives to show their battle wounds and hope to get a little kiss a boo-boo. Trust me. I’m sure each and every wife and/or girlfriend would have punched them in the appendage offered if they were not in public.

I arrive at our table and my girlfriend asks if anyone died. I told her that may happen to one or two guys later. I ask if she needs anything as I head to the cooler. She orders up a wine so as I’m heading to the cooler I stop to look at the assembled battered and bruised warriors. I hold the ball high over my head and say,

“And this concludes this years O-gymp-ics!”

As I take a jump shot at the basket on the garage.

Nothing but net.

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12 responses to “Spirit Of Competition

  1. I have to grind this one out by saying that, when I said my last line before taking the jump shot I did first think of saying,

    “And this concludes this years O-limp-ics!”

    Before realizing that would only work on paper. So I made a quick edit and ended thusly.

  2. this is why i usually hate cook outs.

  3. sounds like “Oh limp dicks” would be more appropriate for the out of shape yeah-I-played-high-school-ball nimrods…

  4. Chris! Come out of the sandbox, your hamburgers ready, and those kids are too small for you…

  5. Great story, but. . .does your girlfriends daughter still crowd the plate?

  6. No seismic waves I take it when he hit the ground?

  7. I’m sure they’ll discover a fault line there in the future. The funniest thing was seeing what Michael Phelps’ strokes look like out of water. Not as graceful, as you’d expect.

  8. I have seen you play with the racket in one hand and a beer in the other. In fact, for the record, I have seen you hit the ball, finish the last of a cold one and open the next one while your opponent scrambles to return your service.

  9. Thanks, Soup! You know what they say, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

    Now this is a true story.

    I was on a date and ran into another couple. I knew the woman so she tells her date I used to be a tennis player. He says he was a pretty good player himself but that his game was table tennis.

    “I was the firehouse champion!”

    So what goes and happens next? My date mentions that, in my dining room, I have a table tennis table.

    Also true.

    I had no use for a dining room but I did have a table tennis table. Seemed like a logical idea to me.

    It gets around to someone (trust me, it wasn’t me) thinking it would be a good idea to go to my house and play.

    We get there and, at first, it’s fun. We’re playing doubles, it’s a mess, there are bottles all over the table, just nice and friendly. Then the women decided they wanted to sit down so I joined them.

    “Aren’t we going to play?” The guy says.

    Always the (begrudgingly) good host I stand. It’s just smacking a ball around a little. I still have a beer in my hand so think nothing about what’s happening nine feet away.

    I kept it close but beat him and, for the first time in whatever length of time it was, I walked over to shake his hand at the end.

    It wasn’t until then I realized I was the only one thinking it was a friendly game. It wasn’t his drenched shirt nor furrowed brow that was a give away.

    It was when he started making excuses, snapping at his girlfriend then beating a hasty retreat with nary a bon voyage that I knew he’d been taking it very seriously.

    His parting remark was that he wanted a rematch. When he hadn’t been drinking. I gladly offered to schedule a time but he said he’d get back to me.

    He never did.

    Too bad. I would have made sure I hadn’t been drinking either.

  10. Like beer could have any detrimental effect on your prowess.

  11. Sorry, been offline for the past 7 days, and besides, I didn’t get sucked into the Olympics…even once !
    Where were they this year ?

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