Last night I played about 1 1/2 hours of pickup hoops at the nearby 24 Hour Fitness place.
For the first time in our three-plus months here in California, people (gasp!) passed. And cut. And set picks. It was joyful, and I’d been waiting for some joyful basketball for quite a long time.
Anyhow, the final game of the evening was a 3-on-3 matchup at one end of the court. I was, easily, the oldest guy. One of my teammates, wearing an awesome Rockets Stevie Francis jersey, was 19. The other fella was, maybe, 28. We faced off against two players who were good and one who was exceptional. The Exceptional (a nickname is born) was probably two inches taller (I’m 6-2) and 8,000 times quicker. He was a dead-eye shooter with a point guard’s quickness. I’ve probably played 56,321 games of basketball in my life, and this guy was among the 30 best players I’ve ever faced.
He toasted me.
And toasted me again.
And again. And again. No matter what, I couldn’t stop him. We played by ones, and at one point trailed 8-0. Then 9-0. Then 10-0. Then 11-0. Finally we scored, and clawed our way back. The game was to 25. We evening it at 23.
Final possession. We kick the ball around. Back, forth. Somehow it gets to me in the corner, behind the 3-point line. I have a second. Bend knees, launch—good.
We win, 25-23.
Why am I sharing the uninteresting story of an uninteresting basketball game at an uninteresting gym? Because it felt … AMAZING! ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! SO, SO, SO AMAZING! Even at 42. Even in an empty gym at 10 pm on a Thursday. I was floating and glorious and euphoric.
And that, truly, is the magic of sports; a magic you can’t get from an XBox or iPhone. It’s the sweat trickling down your temples, knowing—for a fleeting moment—that you did something substantial.
Even though it’s not substantial at all.