Saturday, March 31, 2012

Students versus Faculty

The Internet blogosphere was buzzing (not really) about the status of Jaime Flaco for the annual student/faculty basketball game. My August 9 injury and August 12 surgery put the game at about seven and a half months after my last basketball game. As I began running in early March, I harbored crazy fantasies of a Willis Reed-type comeback, of playing a few meaningful minutes (I was at least realistic enough to realize that conditioning, or lack thereof, would be a huge obstacle to my stardom) and leading my team to victory.

But, even with my gradual improvement in conditioning through my consistent running, I knew categorically that it would not be happening.

About a week before the game, with my players seemingly forgetting my fall and winter of wheelchair coaching, crutches, casts and walking boots, I fielded a series of questions probing my status for the upcoming game. The optimist in me says that they were scouting their tough competition, but the realist in me says they were just making conversation.
Game night arrived this past Thursday, and, dressed in slacks and shirt and tie, there was no chance I could make a gametime decision to play. The scene was incredibly ripe for a huge victory for the players: the team won its league, got to the second round of the playoffs, and faced a teachers' team without four or so of its best players. Two top players were out of town, and a talented coworker felt my injury hit close to home and sat out the game. As he watched me agonize through my recovery, he made a firm decision-one that softened as game day approached-to not get injured and therefore not play in the game.
As the game progressed, I found myself sitting first on the bench, serving as a sort of coach for the faculty, jumping up when the teachers scored a big basket or made a key defensive play, to eventually sitting a few rows behind the bench, laughing and joking with friends, and even cheering a bit for the student team.
The students took an early lead, up about seven after five minutes, and went into halftime with a fourteen-point lead. With the teachers living and dying-mostly dying-by the long range jumper (set shot?), the game was over very early. The final score was 67-41.
The bad? It was rough watching others carry the burden I know I could have eased. The trash talk between teams was vague and boring, since I couldn't back up my words on the court. I felt like there was a big party, and I wasn't invited. And I wouldn't be invited for a whole year.
The good? Without my participation, I know that it's impossible to prove that we would have won had I played.
But it's also impossible to prove that we still would have lost had I played...

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