Monday, October 21, 2013
Basketball as Zen
This is the place I find myself.
This is my place of Zen and it has been for 21 years.
When I started playing basketball in March of 1992, I was out of shape with a weight of 237 pounds and a bad cholesterol number of 318. I found it by accident.
After taking some verbal abuse from a co-worker one day...."hey butter ball turkey..." I decided that enough was enough and it was time to do something about my fatness.
Living in Kirkwood, and doing the morning show on KSHE, I decided one day to just put the tennis shoes on and go shoot some baskets at the local YMCA. I got there about 11am, but hadn't really started any kind of official weight loss program, so I just shot and shot, trying to get the old form back that launched me to stardom in my youth. :)
About 11:45, people started streaming in to the gym and I was in the middle of what the Y called noontime basketball. By noon, we had about 13 or 14 guys I never saw before.
Old, young, tall, short, fat and thin, black, white they all came in, looking for some exercise.
The leader was a guy named Bob, who was the executive director at the Y.
He let me know they played Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon and I was certainly welcome.
The first game I played, I had to call time out about three trips down the floor. "Ah, we don't call time out, you have to play with your team or sit until the next game", as the rules were now explained. Then it was four times up and down the floor...then five..six and on it went until in nine months, I had lost almost fifty pounds, lowered my cholesterol by over a hundred points and got in real good shape.
I found my Zen place.
This is where the only thing I worry about is what my next play is (or as I joked today, what play I can screw up next).
No matter what has happened in my life, where I've been, where I've moved, this place is home.
Not just a gym, though.
The one constant in my roller coaster world. The place where nothing matters, just playing. I don't think about work, or anything but playing basketball.
Over the past twenty two years, guys have come and gone and we've even had two guys die on this floor. I've made great friendships that have lasted through the years and guys who have been kicked out for being assholes who took the game way too seriously.
If you don't play for fun here, you get asked to leave and it's happened a few times over the years.
Cardinal broadcaster Dan McLaughlin played years ago when he was a really big guy.
Kirkwood pro football star Jeremy Maclin (Eagles wide receiver) played for awhile after high school (and he schooled us).
I have had three severely sprained ankles, 23 stitches under my eye, broken ribs, pulled muscles, rotator cuff surgery (too many three pointers, I guess), dislocated fingers, etc.
But, I keep coming back.
When I was sick, on the good days, I'd come out and play until I couldn't. The guys there at that time, cheered me on when I played and understood when I couldn't go any further.
When my brother died on Saturday, I played on Monday. I had to. I got lost in the game.
There have been a couple of guys "retire" from playing in the past few years. Patrick, From Webster Groves quit playing when he was 74. Jules, an accountant stopped playing earlier this year at 80.
See, while winning is why we play, it's not all about that. We all play for exercise, camaraderie and because it's good for us.
During the summer, the kids come home from school and we welcome them.
My trash talk with them goes something like this..."man, it's gotta suck to be you. If I score on you, I'm an old man scoring on someone young enough to be my grand kid and if you score on me, you're scoring on an old man. You can't win."
I played today. When I take an office day in St. Louis, part of that day will be spent with basketball zen. My happy place. A place where I can be a kid again. Yes, my knees get sore, but it is sweet pain.
It's funny sometimes how we can get attached to inanimate objects that mean something in our lives. I know that this place, this innocuous gym in a suburb of a Midwestern town in America, anytown, really could mean so much and how it can feel like home.
I hope I die on this court and if I do, I'll be home and doing what I love more than anything.
Basketball zen. It's saved my life
Posted by RR at Monday, October 21, 2013
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