Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Passion of the Christ...Centered Basketball League.

As some of you already know, I play church league basketball. About four years ago, I retired from The League, citing my overworked knees and my tendency to get really competitive and angry during games, resulting in decidedly un-Christlike behavior. Then we started going to a new church, and our Sunday School class decided to put a team in the "recreational" division of The League. We've played together for two years now, and in that time I've noticed that all the teams are pretty much made up of the same nine guys. There might be fifteen on a team, but it's really only nine personalities out there.

Here are those personalities.

1. The Angry Guy - This is the guy that's probably had a really bad day at work. Maybe he got yelled at by his boss. Maybe he IS the boss, and his employees are only marginally more competent than a stick of room temperature butter. Maybe he came home from work to grab a quick bite before the game and his wife told him that their four year old had choke slammed a kid at school resulting in their suspension and now they have to pay the choked out kid's medical bills. Regardless of what happened, the dude is angry, and he's going to release that anger on the court. Some might be passive aggressive and elbow you when no one is looking or call you ugly under their breath, but others will downright try to hurt you. They see you as the person who shot their pet turtle that one time in the fifth grade. They are what is traditionally known as a "live wire." They are probably already taking baby aspirin, and are a choke slam away from having that first heart attack.

2. The Show-Off - This gentleman is usually the best player on the team, and he knows it. He also has it in his mind that there are actually NBA scouts in the stands, and if he plays well enough he'll get a contract. He probably had a shot at college basketball at one point after high school, but he blew it in one way or another and he's still bitter. He'll give a post-game interview to anyone who cares to tell him "good game," and he'll usually try to get his teammates to run at least one play that he's seen the Lakers run. He's really not a bad guy, and all he wants is his picture in the paper.

3. The Mediator - The Mediator is the person who spends most of their time yelling encouraging things at BOTH of the teams. Peppy stuff, motivational stuff, and helpful stuff, reminding everyone that it's a church league and that Jesus is watching. He's the first one to break up any arguments that might happen, and he's the first one to explain to the referee that The Angry Guy's kid choked someone out in school today. He's the guy that will tell you it's all in fun when you're down fifty points and have absolutely no hope of winning a single game during the season. Everyone loves The Mediator, but everyone also secretly wants him to validate their own emotions by seeing him punch just one guy, one time.

4. The Competitive Guys - These folks can be broken down into two groups. The "Skinny/In Shape" guys and the "Fat/Out of Shape" guys.
The Skinny Guys are the ones who dive for every loose ball, foul you hard in the paint when you think you'll get an easy layup, try to get you to run a 1-3-1 defense, and just in general think that everyone should be playing as hard as them. These guys aren't angry, but they more than likely have an actual training plan for the church league basketball season that includes a strict diet and exercise regimen.
The Fat Guys are the ones who really want to run that 1-3-1 and who will still foul you hard, but they just can't get up and down the court the way they used to. They'll play with the heart of a lion for about thirty six seconds, and then they're huffing and puffing and pretty much just praying to God above that they'll be in the right place at the right time. At some point during the game, a Fat Competitive Guy usually turns into an Angry Guy.

The Stalwart Defender - No one else knows when it happened, but at some point and time in the Stalwart Defender's younger days, a coach looked at him and said "Son, you play really good defense. DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, SON!" This guy could tell you the year, the month, the day, and what they were wearing when their coach told them this. They despise all things zone, and by the end of the evening can tell you what flavor of gum you're chewing. If you get stuck being guarded by a Stalwart Defender, your only hope is to try to check into the game when he's on the bench, which will probably be often, because his jumpshot looks like something out of a Michael Bay film. When he comes on the court, he immediately yells "FIND YOUR MAN!" followed by "I'VE GOT THIS GUY!" while tugging on your shirt like you're a puppy about to go for a walk. This is probably the most annoying guy you'll ever play against, but you want him on your team.

The Third Referee - Every sport has this person. The person who thinks they were born with a striped shirt and a whistle in their hand. The person who seriously considered listing "NBA Referee" as their five year career plan, or even worse, used to be an actual referee. They aren't the referee in this game, but you wouldn't know it except for their jersey. Their favorite line is "OVER THE BACK!" but they don't limit it to that. They're constantly trying to get a three second call on someone. They explain to the officials how that really was a foul. They scream "WALK!" after the referee has already blown the whistle to call a travel. They've usually been warned about it in a church league game and have been kicked out of their old high school's gym for insulting an official's mother. He's the only person on the team that will actually try to take a charge. He is also more than likely...

The Crybaby - This person may not try to be an official, but they aren't happy with ANYTHING they call. "Their foot was on the line." "That was probably a foul." "I want more playing time." "I just can't get it to fall tonight guys." "Honey, I can't believe you don't come watch me play." These are all things a Crybaby says. They are pouting when they come in, and they are making excuses after the game. They would rather miss a play on defense because they're trying to get the ref to notice that the way the point guard is dribbling is actually carrying than just suck it up and play hard. At some point during the game, The Crybaby will say, "I got Powerade in my eye guys, give me a sec."

The Washed-Up Ballhog - This is the guy that had a so-so high school career but was never actually good enough to get into college. He's played church league almost exclusively after that because he feels like he's better than everyone except The Show-Off. If you pass this guy the ball, he is GOING to shoot. Ball movement never enters his mind. He'll shoot 23% on a great night, and 12% on an average night. He doesn't understand how people can manage to block his shot or steal the ball from him without fouling him first. He probably tried to "retire" from church league at one point and got talked into coming back. He tells people he's out there for fun, but when it comes down to it, he's a choke slam away from being an Angry Guy as well. He'll make little noises on the three point line to let someone know he's open even though the guy with the ball has a higher shot percentage and a better shot. At some point during the game he'll yell "GIVE ME THE ROCK!" Also, he calls a basketball a rock.

and finally...

The Guy Everyone Wants To See Make It - If there was a "Most Improved" award, this guy would get it every year. He's never played basketball a day in his life, but he got sucked in by all the "It's gonna be so fun!" talk, and decided to cough up the money to play. At some point you've probably had to explain to him that he can't play in work boots or flip flops. When he gets the ball, everyone yells at him to shoot it, no matter where he is on the floor. He is, in fact, the only person that will ever have a screen set for him. The entire crowd is breathless when he chucks the ball at the hoop, and if it goes in...pandemonium ensues. At least one time during the season he'll have an asthma attack, and he can probably give you a complete run-down of the stats for the entire team.

So that about wraps it up. These nine guys step out on that floor at some point during every game. It may only be church league ball to you, but for everyone out there, it's forty more minutes of trying desperately to hang onto what's left of the Glory Days.

To them, it's The League.