Another day has come and gone. The sun has risen, the sun has set. The end of the second day. As is my custom I went to my second shul and davened on the court of Spaulding, Nike and Reebok. There I bore witness to the pain and shame of the past for myself and for others.
If you’re new to the blog let me help you catch up. I play pick up basketball three or four days a week. I use that and this blog as my therapy. It is where I blow off steam and try to forget about the challenges of the day.
Most of the time I prefer to play three-on-three or four-on-four, but every now and then I’ll run a couple of games of full court. Unless you play in the league the teams aren’t prepared in advance. We just split ’em up and have at it, well that’s the theory.
The thing is that no one wants to lose so people try to do what they can to stack the teams. And as you might imagine there are players that people really don’t want on their team because they just aren’t good enough.
So what happens is that you sometimes get to witness the harsh reality of the elementary school playground all over again. Guys can be isolated and outcast. To be clear I have also seen some great moments in which people intentionally grabbed the less talented players and took them under their wings.
My friends, that is a mosaic of the black eye I received from one of the guys I play ball with. He was on my own team. Quite a teammate, isn’t he.
On a serious note he is one of those guys who moves around on the fringe. He has some severe emotional issues, isn’t particularly coordinated and has been hospitalized on a number of occasions. I know about his medical situation because he has boundary issues and shares things that he probably shouldn’t offer so readily.
Most of the guys prefer not to play with him, because it is just too easy to get hurt. I have to be honest and include myself in that group. If I can avoid it I do, but sometimes I feel badly about it. Not just because of him, but a few other guys as well.
As we divide ourselves up you can see the anxious look in their eyes. They’re nice guys, but they are just terrible players. Maybe I am projecting too much, but I suspect that they have had a lifetime of being picked last or not picked at all.
It makes me feel awkward. We’re not children. We pay to belong and most guys just want to have a good game to take their mind’s off life’s challenges. It is not really our responsibility to try and make everyone feel good. There are times when I want to pick them, where I’d like to help make them smile by helping them.
Sometimes I have spoken up and done something and sometimes I have just stayed silent. Like I said, we’re grown ups now. There have been times at the gym where I didn’t get picked because the guys didn’t think that I was good enough to play with them either.
But after more than 20 years of playing there it doesn’t happen often. I usually play with the same group of guys so I am often guaranteed a space. To be clear, these guys on the fringes can always get into a game. It is not that they are completely frozen out of playing, but that can be a small consolation.
I suppose that what I am really saying is that the court isn’t so different from the real world. Sometimes it is a place where the layers are pulled back and you see that we still carry the pain of our past.