NBA Bound. Ready to Impregnate the Prom Queen

When I get yelled at by Mommy-Know-It-Alls who think I’m being too physically rough when playing with my small boys, what I tell them is sometimes life is rough. I want my sons to begin learn that life is hard, sometimes you lose, and things don’t always go the way you want it. You’ve got to have thick skin and you’ve got to be tough to make it in this world. You can play nerf football with a child so that he doesn’t break his nose when he misses a catch, but you can’t nerf the world for him when he grows up.
As a teen, I learned that you can’t nerf the world when a school bully stuffed my head in a shit-filled toilet and flushedit. In junior high, at the age of 13, when most kids started turning into men, I had the body of an eight year old anemic boy with a tape worm and the face of an acne infested computer whiz. I sustained more beatings than Tina Turner and Rihanna added together and multiplied by Ray Rice’s wife, and I was called so many different horrible nicknames that I forgot my real name for at least a decade. I was locked inside school lockers and left there. I’ve had so many wedgies that I actually learned a strategy for making them less painful (you just relax and breath and let it happen, resisting only makes the pain worse) People often ask me why I don’t wear underwear. I typically give some bull-shit answer about wanting to feel free down there. But the truth is that I’m scarred. Just looking at a pair of tighty whities gives me horrific flashbacks to the wedgies of yesteryear. I was beaten up many times. Most of the time it was because I had a big smart mouth and a tiny little body. I would never advocate for bullying, but I recognize that bullying serves a purpose. From the beatings I recieved, I became tougher. You can’t hurt me with words at this point in my life; it’s simply not possible. Physically, I’ve become a pretty tough guy. Ive boxed, I know how to fight, I’ve survived nine neck surgeries and at 44 years old I still rock climb and work out daily. But as a kid… well, I could take physical pain, but I wasn’t very mentally tough at all.
Of all the embarrasing stories of yesteryear, one in particular stands out. It was late fall of 1989 in Berwick, Pennsylvania. I was a 16 year old junior in high school. It was a typical December day in PA, 22 degrees but it felt like negative 400. You couldn’t spit while outdoors because, inevitably, some of that spit would freeze to your face and everyone would assume that you’d walked into school with a fresh load on your face. High school football season had just ended, so most of the town was cranky and bored because high school football was the only thing the town had going for it back then. Basketball season had started weeks earlier; we had one win and seven losses, but it didn’t matter, because the football team had finished state finals and tonight was the first night the football players would rejoin our team and save us from a disastrous season.
I was the starting point guard up until the football players returned; which was nice, but it was really no big deal, because I had bigger things ahead of me. I was on my way to becoming the world’s next Spud Webb… Unless I got another growth spurt, then I’d be the world’s next Larry Bird. Either way, one day, probably in five or six years, I’d be in the NBA (depending on if they let me come out of college early or not). Otherwise, I’d just wasted half my youth spending countless lonely nights working on my jumpshot at the school playground with spit freezing to my face and my dick occasionally freezing to my ballsack (yes, that can actually happen if you get sweaty in freezing weather).
Anyway, I was the proud owner of a Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rookie card, which is now worth some money, or it would be, if I hadn’t torn it into three separate pieces. This card was an old style basketball card that had three players on it and perforations between the players. I’d cut Magic and the other guy off my card because Magic played for the Lakers, and as far as I was concerned, he was pretty much either Satan, or Satan’s butt buddy. I laminated Larry, and stapled him to the inside of my jersey for luck.
In hindsight, this is stupid for a few reasons:
1 – Stapling something to the inside of a piece of athletic clothing is self-mutilation. By the end of every game I’d have a bloody nipple, and by mid-season my left nipple was so calloused that it could deflect bullets.
2 – There’s really no good reason for an adult male, after the onset of puberty, to carry a basketball card around with him.
Moving along─
We’re getting blown out by the opposition. I started the game as point guard because the coach was trying to be loyal to those of us that had been there since the start of the season, but since the football players were back, my start lasted about 30 seconds, and then I was pulled out for a football player we all referred to as “Star Man.” Star Man was a great athlete with a man’s body, and I was a 5’8” boy that was built Ann Coulter, but with less muscle, so even though I had a sick cross-over and a mad jumper, I couldn’t complain. Regardless, we made a late run in the fourth quarter to get closer. Star Man got in foul trouble and I got back into the game. Then, myself, and two other guys, in successive possessions, drained three pointers to pull to within two points. There was ten seconds left, and the other team was inbounding the ball. We had no timeouts.
They inbounded the ball, my teammate rattled the ball handler and forced him into making an awkward pass. I cut into the lane, stole the ball, and dribbled down the court. I was about to make the tying lay-up to send it to overtime. Of course, in overtime, I’d win it for us and be carried off the court by my teammates and delivered into the wanting arms of the hottest hottie of all hotties from our high school, a beautiful Italian girl with light olive skin and hair that was personally woven by the Virgin Mary. Her name was Claudia. Impressed by my athletic prowess and 7” biceps, she would dump her Quarterback boyfriend, fall in love with me, and we’d probably make, like, seventeen babies, because not even birth control could stop our powerful chemical attraction. I was playing out this scenario out in my head on my way to the basket; however, the guy whom made the pass had an angle on me. As I went up for the shot, he lunged at me and took out my legs. Nowadays, they’d call it a technical foul. But not back then because people were not such whiney babies back then, and athletes understood that sports were physical. Anyway, a regular foul was called. Immediately, I bounced to my feet, fueled on adrenaline, testosterone, and love.
There is one second remaining.
The other team called timeout to ice the shooter.
Me.
You can’t ice me. I’ve got mother fucking ice in my veins, mother fucker! I eat dry ice for lunch and wash it down with frozen Mercury. You can’t fucking ice me!
Our coach said something in the huddle.
I didn’t hear a word of it. I was thinking about the high fives I’d be getting from my teammates and the hugs and kisses from Claudia after I won the game for us. I was thinking about all those douchebags that had given me swirlies in 8th grade that were now watching from the stands- boy was I going to show them. I was smiling in the huddle, the coach kept talking. He sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents. “Whmp, wha, whmp, whmp.”
Maybe Claudia will want me to take her to a beer party. Or maybe Lisa (last year’s hottie of the year) will hear about my game winner, and come home from college just to make-out with me.
“Matt!” he yells.
“What Dad!?!” Yes, my dad was the coach, did I not mention that?
“You hear me?”
“Yeah!”
“Now, do what I said! But first, get out there and make those shots!”
“They’re already made,” I said.
Now, when I reflect on what happened next, I still get embarrassed. It creeps me out that I actually did something this weird. These days, when this haunts my dreams, and I do still dream about this moment, upon waking up, I try to convince myself I learned valuable lessons from it. But other than not being an over-confident ass-hat, which I still tend to trend towards, I still don’t really know what those lessons are.
I stepped up to the foul line, the ref hands me the ball, and I put the ball on my hip to strike a pose. I looked at everyone in the game. I eyed the ref. I looked back at my dad. I found my Pop Pop in the stands and gave him a confident nod.
Then, without planning it, or even thinking about it, I reached inside my jersey and ripped out the Larry Bird card. I looked deeply into the eyes of the guy who fouled me, locked eyes with him, showed him the Larry Bird basketball card, and said, “I’m gonna bury these shots just like Larry!” Making sure that I was speaking loudly enough for everyone in the gym to hear.
People laughed.
And when I say people, I mean the other basketball players. And when I say the other basketball players, I mean my teammates. My own teammates were laughing at me.
“What are you doing?” the referee asked, not really sure if I was breaking any rules or not. I’m certain that if you check the annals of basketball history, I was setting a precedent.
The rest of the story doesn’t really matter, I mean, even if I’d made the shots, I’d still be a total dickwad dorkface… but maybe a dorkface of a lesser degree; I dunno, that’s all hypothetical, because─
I put the card in my shorts pocket, took the ball off my hip, winked at the guy who fouled me, lined up the shot, and then-
I clanked it off the back of the rim.
The horn sounded. We lost.
No high fives.
No Claudia.
No beer party.
No Lisa.
My Dad wouldn’t even look at me.
Even my Pop Pop, a man who would hug his grandchildren and try to suck on our necks to the point of giving us literal hickies every single time he saw one of us, my Pop Pop, the world’s most positive minded person to ever roam the earth, the man who used to tell us, as children, that our farts, “smelled like roses to him,” even that man couldn’t think of anything positive to say. I approached him because nobody else wanted to be near me. “Hey Pop Pop,” I say, head hung low, dejected, looking for a pick me up from good ole’ Pop Pop…
“Umm, yeah. Hey, Matt. Ummm, see you later,” he said. And rather than a hug, he patted me on the back like I were a leper, and then he left, probably hoping that nobody saw him touching me allowing them to make the connection that we might share genetics.
On a positive note, I stopped going to the basketball courts by myself to practice, my dick never froze to my balls again, I started running more, I went to a few beer parties, kissed a few girls, became a track star, and got a Division I track scholarship.
Maybe none of that would have happened had I buried those free throws. Maybe I’d be an even bigger jag-off than I was becoming. Maybe I’d have continued to chase the illusion that I was become an NBA star and impregnate Claudia with seventeen children. Even so, I’d gladly trade in the track scholarship to have made those two free throws, and to have had the common sense to not pull out that damned Larry Bird card.
And as you read this, think about me, right now, sitting in my chair, at my computer, writing this story, and blushing like a 22 year old virgin who’s just seen his cousin’s boobs. (And no, that’s not a story of mine, just a metaphor)
It takes confidence for me to share such an embarrasing story.
This is the type of confidence I hope for my son’s to aquire, without having to sustain so much pain along the way.

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