No March Madness is madder than a chubby 40-year-old dude who wants to relive his basketball glory days.
To be honest, I never really had any basketball glory days. I played high school hoops at a small school in Vermont, where I was a short skinny white dude in a sea of short skinny white dudes who were all better at basketball than me. Not saying they were Steve Nash or anything, but they could, like, dribble behind their backs, pass the ball without looking, and, like, make baskets and stuff.
I’d always wondered—had things been different—if I could’ve forged a bigger and better path on the hardwood. Like, if I’d started playing at a younger age. Or if I’d really committed myself to improving my game. Or if I’d been a little bit faster. Or if I’d been a little bit taller (it wasn’t fair that guys with lesser athletic talent could dominate one of the most athletically demanding sports just because they were bigger and taller than everybody else).
Wait a sec.
I didn’t know if I’d be able to commit to losing a bunch of weight and getting in really good shape. I didn’t know if I could make myself into a serviceable adult-league baller if I started practicing again and playing more. But I did know one thing—I’m bigger than most nine-year-old girls. So the solution seemed obvious to me.
I know what you’re thinking, and no, I wasn’t just going to jump off the couch and go crash a 4th-grade girls basketball game. I had to train first. So I threw on my tightest Batgirl compression socks and a pair of Space Jam sneakers from 1996 and jogged my heart out for almost an entire half a block. When I caught my breath sixty-eight minutes later, I was ready.
Conveniently (for this story) a friend of mine has a nine-year-old daughter who plays basketball. His name is Andy. Her name is Mandy. When I told Andy about my plan, he spit coffee all over my Princess Toadstool sleeping bag and said I probably shouldn’t play a contact sport with nine-year-old girls. But what did he know? He had nothing to prove—he was good at basketball when we were kids. And he never even owned Space Jam sneakers. Loser.
WHAT TIME IS IT?! (Wait…seriously?!)
The game was at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. So, naturally, I arrived at the gym at 8:35. There I saw ten young ladies–five in fire engine red jerseys and five in royal blue jerseys—sloshing to and fro on a court that hadn’t been refinished since 1974, nor swept since 1987. The creaky wooden bleachers were bedecked with a scattering of sleepy-eyed parents who kept sipping coffee and looking at their watches, the only sound was the disappointing thud the ball made each time it struck the floor, and the fourth quarter had just begun with the teams mired in a 4-4 deadlock.
I watched with bated breath at the riveting display of athleticism before me as Team Red and Team Blue meandered slowly but courageously up and down the court trying to make the single basket that would inevitably decide this breakfast-hour Battle of the Braids. Team Blue threw the ball out of bounds. Team Red dribbled off someone’s foot. Team Blue took a shot that hit the bottom corner of the backboard. Team Red airballed two free throws.
Then, out of nowhere, the unthinkable happened. With just 1:48 left before this game would be mercifully euthanized, a Team Blue player shocked everyone—including herself—when she made a routine lay-up to give her team a 6-4 lead. The crowd looked up from the TikTok videos they were watching on their phones and rewarded her with aggressively polite applause.
Meanwhile, I stood up, put both hands on my cheeks a la Kevin McCallister, and screamed. Startled, Andy ducked and said, “Dude, what’s your problem? Mandy’s team is winning!”
I looked at him and, with gritted teeth, said, “I like red.” Then I pulled off my She-Ra warm-up pants. It was time for me to go in.
“The girls need me.”
I bounded down the bleachers, leapt onto the floor, and swiped the ball out of the ref’s hands. I dribbled as fast (and coordinated) as I could all the way to halfcourt, ignoring the zebra-shirted fuck’s frantic whistles and the frightened young players’ squeals, then stopped for a moment to catch my breath knowing no one dared try to guard me. Thirty-nine seconds later, I stood back up, walked the rest of the way to the hoop, and went for an easy layup that clanked off the bottom of the hoop and smashed me in the nose. I got my own rebound, ran back behind the 3-point line, and launched a soaring rainbow that floated dramatically toward the hoop and missed by seven feet.
The sleepy crowd’s Dunkin’ must have kicked in, because suddenly, their eyes were popped open and the mouths were popping off.
“Sit down, dipshit!”
“Someone call the cops!”
“Get away from my daughter!”
“Put your shirt back on!”
“Can I give you my phone number?”
Meanwhile, the ref and both teams approached from the other side of the court with apprehension, but before anyone else could get to the ball, I picked it out of the third row of the stands and ran back toward the hoop. As a got closer, though, little nine-year-old girls from both teams suddenly swarmed me and began shrieking in my ear and pawing at me with their little nine-year-old hands trying to pry the big orange orb from my tenacious grasp. Some clung to my shins. Some grabbed my wrists. Others tried to swipe the floral sweatband off my head, but I wasn’t having it. I ducked and dodged all the little girl limbs flying at my face, announced my presence with authority with one big power dribble, and dumped in the game-tying basket. Energized by my Shaq-like dominance, I pounded my chest, roared like the Hulk, and pointed at both teams.
“Ha!” I shouted. “All tied up again, bitches!”
Then in a swift and terrifying instant, I was on the ground with the zebra-shirted fuck’s knee in my stomach, and a dad with wide nostrils and a patchy beard had his hand around my throat. As I began to pass out, I heard some random utterances of words like “restraining order” and “pervert.” Things were getting fuzzier, and I hoped they captured whatever perpetrator they were talking about, but I couldn’t help but wonder—what did that have to do with basketball?
I glanced up at the big digital scoreboard on the far wall as Patchy Beard and Zebra Shirt continued yelling in my face. That’s weird, I thought. It still says 6-4. They forgot to add my points to the score.
I refocused my eyes, gestured toward the scorekeepers table, and said, “’scuse me, the score should be six-si—”
And then Andy punched me in the face.
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