Sammy Sportface was 29 playing lamely in a sorry men’s league on Mike Wallerstedt’s team. It was a meaningless game at Western Junior High School in Washington, D.C. – the epicenter of American basketball. His team stunk. Has been men littered the gym.
He hauled in a rebound. Thinking he was a high school star again, he went back up with the shot and missed. Again he pulled down the rebound. And missed. Again, miss. Again, miss.
The next time instead of shooting he took the ball and punted it into the ceiling of the gym with zeal and walked off the court. His team called time out.
Off in a corner of the gym, he thought to himself: “I suck at hoops.”
Moping around, he left his teammates back on the bench wondering the new strategy should be now that Sportface was punting the ball. He kicked the ball into the wall.
“OK, somebody’s gotta go in for Sportface,” said John Wallerstedt.
In that corner of the gym, Sportface thought about what once was, a real basketball career, gone sour. What happened, he thought? I used to be able to play this game. Rudyface messed this whole thing up.
But there were signs before that ball punt that Sportface’s days as a hoops player were numbered. There was the time he had two free throws with the score tied in a high school game in Panama. Everybody on his team, including the coach, knew Sportface would choke.
The coach took a towel and waved it in Sportface’s face to try to get him to loosen up and make a clutch free throw for the first time in his life.
First shot: brick. Second shot: clang.
Sportface had a chance to be the hero for his team. That night they would have gone out in Panama and gone wild. Instead, he single-handedly sent the game into overtime by missing two easy ones and his team lost the game.
There were no post-game celebrations. The team went back to their sordid hotel. All the other players muttered to each other how lame it was that Sportface couldn’t make just one free throw. There was talk of kicking Sportface off the team.
There were other signs.
One Spring in high school Dennis Sullivan called him to join his BS Spring League team. George, his younger brother, recommended getting Sportface because he could play some hoops.
After the first game, Dennis called George and said: “Why did you tell me to get Sportface. He sucks.”
The signs of hoops demise really hit home a few years later when Sportface was in college. His team went up against a team that had a guy who won the award in Sportface’s Shakespeare class for writing the best final paper. It was titled “Full Throttle Down the Path of Destruction With William Shakespeare.”
Sportface figured any guy who won the writing award couldn’t’ be as good as Sportface in hoops. Sportface got a C on his final paper. The title of his paper was something forgettable like “Shakespeare Wrote Things I Don’t Understand.”
Wrong assumption. Shakespeare schooled him on the hoops court all game long and knocked Sportface out of the university intramural playoffs.
“I had a hoops game once and then I met Rudyface,” said Sportface. “Everything that happened after that, from punting the ball, to bricking free throws, to Shakespeare, I blame on him. My basketball career was a classic Shakespearean tragedy.”
To be continued…
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