Old Guy Glory: Still Got It! (One day.)

“There is a greater hunger for appreciation than for bread,” said Mother Teresa, which may account for the burst of well-being that this middle-aged, decomposing terra-cotta warrior of the hardwood felt last week. Among the new things I learned: my university actually has a basketball team! They play against other universities! I’m a basketball hard case who’s lived in my northeastern Chinese city for over three years, and I hadn’t known this. I also got an email from Han Xinghua, who teaches German at my college – most foreigners call him “Hans”, surprise! – inviting me to join the staff basketball squad. (There’s a teacher team?) I discovered, too, the following Wednesday afternoon, that our university has a sports hall, with glass boards and seating and a pseudo-hardwood floor. Nice!

I launched an early three. Net! Cries of supply and acclaim! Other jumpers hit. I even wove my herky-jerky way to the basket through our opponent’s porous zone. Assists happened. Would-be assists clanged off iron, iron hands or surprised faces. A half-court heave, with the scoring table trio of undergraduate girls counting down the last seconds of the first half, went straight to the bottom of the peach basket. (I don’t know if I’ve ever hit one of those bombs in a game before.) We won easily, the team’s first victory, and there were photos with a sheepish old white guy in the middle. It was a little embarrassing to be patted on the back so excitedly for success in such a small pond, but I loved it anyway. I even blocked a shot! (Heck, I must’ve gotten six or seven inches off the floor!)

I knew I shouldn’t have played the next day. Two in a row usually blasts me, I’d also run Tuesday, and the staff game had been full-court, too, but I was basking in the glow of appreciation, I guess, and I wasn’t far away from my favourite outdoor court, and there are still kilos to lose. So I did. I showed up at the university’s north gate courts, where 20-somethings, some of whom play a pretty decent game, gather every day. A few familiar faces welcomed me into the best four-on-four game going that afternoon, and the gods of basketball punished me for all the grinning ease of the previous day’s stardom. The opponent was a tall-ish group, and they crowded the lane, daring me to shoot. I did. It didn’t, over and over again. My hands were cold, my legs were dead, and my frustration was a hungry flame. My team lost repeatedly, and had to wait for our next chance to get whipped by the (admittedly stacked) team that stayed on as half-court winners.

Good run, though, I consoled myself. Decent sweat. No bruises. Didn’t turn an ankle. That’s a great day on the court! My self-talk wasn’t too successful, but saints preserve me, I am looking forward to playing inside again next Friday, starring again in a dark athletic sky. New tricks don’t come easily for an old dog, but it’s fun when an old one draws some applause.

Comment (1)

  1. Hans

    You are a good player, we all appreciate your attending to the game. There are some colleagues in SIB, who loves sport as well. We are so happy that we won, and also juyful to know each other better through sports! Glory lasts for ever!

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