I’m going to tell you guys about the time I played a 14-year-old kid in pool basketball. As with most experiences in my life, it did not go well. It was the summer after my Junior year of college and I had a part time internship. As I wasn’t old enough to buy alcohol, my days consisted mostly of hanging out at the pool in my apartment complex and attempting to catch the eye of the girls that hung out at my apartment complex.
There was a pool basketball net, which was cool. Water basketball eliminates the need for dribbling, which I’ve always found to be very cumbersome. As someone who cannot cut food with his left hand, attempting to control a bouncing ball with said hand has always proved to be an exercise in futility. This eliminates most of my usefulness on the court; my only existing contribution to pickup basketball games is that I am sort of tall, and nothing else.
On that fateful day, there is a pretty girl tanning at the pool that is ignoring me, as usual. So I decide to put on a display of manliness, and take to the pool by myself. With nobody guarding me, I put on a respectable display. I am making just over half of the shots I attempt, mostly layups. I am using the backboard much less than usual. I swish one or two shots from less than 5 feet away from the hoop. I am LeBron James.
A young man comes up to me and asks if I would like to play him one-on-one. Normally I would say no, because playing people that are younger than you in sports is almost always a lose-lose situation; but Tanning Girl looks in my general direction as he asks. She is adjusting to get an even tan, but I pretend she is interested. His mother, sitting on a chair a few feet away, tells me that her son is 14 and made his high school JV basketball team as a freshman. She says that Seth is very good. As a 6’2” 20-year-old, I’m sure I would make at least one Varsity basketball team. I probably would not, but I am still bigger than he is. I will crush Seth.
I jump out to an early lead, using my height and long arms to prevent him from scoring any points at all. Tanning Girl is largely ignoring the game until Seth inadvertently splashes her, at which point she yells, “what the hell,” and moves to a different chair further away. I try to give her a knowing look, one that demonstrates our mutual hatred of Seth. She ignores me.
When I am one point away from winning, Seth, desperate to make a dent in my sizable lead, splashes water into my face while I’m in the act of shooting. This dislodges one of my contacts, and I am instantly rendered half-blind, gasping in pain. His mother laughs as the heavily chlorinated water burns one of the most sensitive areas on my body. I briefly consider pushing her head underwater, but feel that Tanning Girl would not be impressed.
Now with little to no depth perception, I watch as my lead shrinks. Knowing my weakness, Seth routinely splashes my face before darting to the rim and making layups with absurd ease. To my horror, Tanning Girl has started to take interest in the game, as have several other pool patrons. She cheers for Seth alongside his mother. She has betrayed me.
After a short period, we are tied with one point to go. I am tied with a 14-year-old in a game of pool basketball, and he has possession of the ball. I am going to lose. In a fit of ill-timed gallantry, Seth abandons his splashing and attempts a clean game-winning shot. I see him go up. I meet him, and block the shot with as much force as I possess – right into his face. I vaguely register that the full force of the block has rebounded off Seth’s face, and that he might be in need of medical attention. I do not care. Jubilant, I grab the ball out of midair and slam the ball through the hoop. I have done it. I am victorious. I am all that is man.
As I come back to reality, I realize Seth’s mother is screaming. Turning around, I see that Seth is crying and holding his hands to his nose, which is gushing blood. I know it sounds like exactly what happened in Meet the Parents, and that is because it is almost exactly like what happened in Meet the Parents. Multiple people are yelling at me. Tanning Girl is one of them. A man who arrived in an old pickup truck is angrily pointing at me. I wonder if he has a gun in his truck; I begin to fear for my life. I ask loudly if Seth is okay, to which he replies, “Fuck you.” His mother screams at me to “get out,” which I do as quickly as I possibly can. Many people might call that cowardice. To those people, I say this: you are right.
There have been a lot of awkward, cringe-worthy moments in my life, but this one might take the cake. Whenever you’re confronted with situations that seem to be lose-lose, they probably are, and it’s best to just walk away. Sure, you might win, but you never know when a display of supreme, awesome manliness could result in you being threatened by men who drive pickup trucks.
But most of all, just remember: I beat Seth fair and square. That fucking point counted.