By Joe Torosian
“I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cabdriver. Then they would really be educated.”—Al McGuire
I was watching the Lakers game on Sunday and started getting sleepy. Funny, a year ago, I was watching the XFL and never even dozed.
Football season is over, and I don’t know what to do. If I want to go to the park and throw a baseball around, I can’t because the grass is fenced off. If I wanted to go shoot hoops, I can’t because all the rims have been taken down.
I can watch the NFL pre-draft stuff, I can study the Spring Training rosters, I can struggle through the NBA…but we need football. Football is necessary, and if I have to, I’ll dine on America’s Game reruns and NFL Films stuff…but football being over leaves a gap.
With no Sunday game to watch, I find myself wanting to move and work up a sweat. There’s this part of me Jonesing to get back to playing basketball. Three-on-Three, even some Four-on-Four, but where to go?
I’m missing the trash-talk and the brutal truth of pickup basketball. We said the worse things to each other, rode each other, and mocked each other…but it seldom got personal.
I knock down an open look on the baseline…
Friend: “Nice shot, Joe!”
Me: “Your Mom!”
Does anyone remember engaging in this kind of chat?
When we matched up in a half-court game, the first thing you did was call out who you had.
If I was in Monrovia, Pomona, or even La Puente, this is what came out; “I got the white kid” or “I got the white guy.”
If the racial ratio was flipped the other way in El Monte, Temple City, or Arcadia, what came out was; “I got the brother,” or “the blood.”
If the racial ratio was limited in Hispanic representation, I remember defensive matchups being called out and someone saying, “I’ve got Poncho.”
Wouldn’t dream of saying any of those things now in such a hyper-sensitive climate, but then it was the norm.
Be angry, be offended, all you want, but that was the world…And there were no issues unless you submarined somebody on the way to the hole.
We were more likely to fight over who called “Next!” than over the label we were tagged with. I remember being in the middle of one of those haggles at Lambert Park, where I accepted a safe walk back to my car as a victory.
Before I met my future wife, this was my life seven-days a week. It wasn’t like I was playing in one place. This was everywhere. Don’t be a whiner, don’t be a hack, and play ball.
If you didn’t grow up in that environment, if you didn’t have to wear canvas Chuck’s on your feet and play with whatever tee-shirt came up in your drawer…You missed out. It was grimy, it was sweaty, it was physical, but it was authentic.
And you were never fragged at the end of the run because somebody ID’d you by the color of your skin. You were fragged because you couldn’t hold the court, and the uncoordinated big guy–who ended up on your team because he banked in a shot from the foul-line–launched an airball that didn’t have to be back-courted and was turned into a game-winner.
A couple years ago, I parked it on a bench and watched some three-on-three. The shoes were high-end. The apparel, man, everyone was rocking an NBA jersey. And the play?
It sucked. No one knew their roles anymore—eight guys on the court, and all eight guys thought they were Steph Curry.
Which reminded me how much I hated playing with the guy who took a shot he shouldn’t have taken because he felt like it was his turn to take a shot.
“Everyone else was taking one!”—(Didn’t you want to punch that guy?)
“Because everyone else can hit that shot,” I’d answer. “You can’t. Get your butt back in the paint and pull down a board.”
I think I can handle the lousy play…Because I know I’d be ten times worse if I went back out there.
What I don’t like is the lack of honesty. Guard the black guy! Guard the white guy! And don’t shoot that fricken shot because you suck! Just because you spent 200-bills for a LeBron jersey doesn’t mean you’re any good. The kicks and the garb don’t change your game, status, race, or make the spare tire hanging off your frame disappear.
Many coaches read this column, so I’m curious to know…Are your locker rooms as honest as they used to be? Is what needs to be said, said as freely anymore? How much has it changed in the last 20 years?
And has the change been a good thing…or a soft thing?
The Dude abides…
1 Corinthians 6:12-13
Joe T. is the author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”…all five available through Amazon.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joet13b
MeWe: Joe Torosian
Be sure to read:< The Saxon Top 25—Every Monday (College Bball)
The Urena Express—Every Wednesday (MLB)