The Basketball Kid, Part 1
Here is a photograph of me holding with sarcastic ferocity the two league runner-up trophies my brother won while serving as a benchwarmer on his high school varsity team. I was 16 years old. I had just finished a year in which I’d played junior varsity basketball, not being nearly good enough to be even a benchwarmer on varsity, and I knew that the following year, my last in high school, I would also not be good enough to make varsity. I had quit playing baseball a couple years before (and quit collecting baseball cards a year or two before that), and I didn’t care about school, and was incapable of making even the slightest connection with any of the girls I creepily lusted for, so I think it’s safe to say basketball had become the most important part of my life, and I wasn’t nearly good enough at it to keep playing it in a meaningful context. I was not The Basketball Kid. But if I was not The Basketball Kid, who was I?
And who am I?
I mean, is this the story of my life? I haven’t played basketball in a couple of years, not since a relaxed half-hour game of one-on-one with my Peruvian downstairs neighbor weakened my body to such an extent that I spent the next four months with bronchitis. But I still am finding myself not good enough to play on the team of my choosing: I turned 39 a couple weeks ago, which means I have less than a year before I’m a 40-year-old aspiring novelist who has never had a novel published. No real career to speak of, writing or otherwise, still living paycheck to paycheck, more or less. This dream of mine of becoming a writer, sometimes I fucking despise it. Change the addressee of the famous Brokeback Mountain monologue from "secret gay lover" to "vague, impractical dream of becoming a novelist" and it pretty much sums up the way I feel sometimes:
"It’s because of you that I’m like this! I'm nothin’ . . . I’m nowhere . . . Get the fuck off me! I can't stand being like this no more."