I was reminded of one of those moments that "molded me into the person I am" whilst sweating my crotch biscuits off on a sprint to the train this morning.
The whole town was there, all 2,000 of them.
There were like 2 minutes left in the game and we were down by 11 or 12 or 27. For the love of God, it was some insurmountable number of points given the amount of remaining clock time but I know someone from my town is probably reading this going "there were 2 minutes 14 seconds left in the game, so and so had the ball..." Which is why I don't publicly list my home address anywhere.
Now I loved my high school basketball coach. He was the most positive, kind and patient man on the planet and he tried his damnedest to make me tough without making me cry. I still remember him shaking his head with disbelief (not disappointment) when I apologized to a girl on the opposing team for what I thought must have been a really embarrassing blocked shot for her. I think he finally realized that my purpose on the team was more for comedic value than a physical contribution. Poor guy.
Anyway, there's this whacky long standing tradition in sports of "giving everyone a chance," (obviously only when that chance is so far out of reach of being fucked up by the second string it would take a LeBron James appearance to change the outcome). My coach, like most coaches, was a believer in this tradition and so, with a couple minutes left in the finals and what seemed like a pretty wide point gap, he walked over to those of us at the end of the bench, tapped our heads and gave us the "you're up."
Ho-ly shit. I actually remember my buddy murmuring "No, no, no, no, no, no" but it was really hard to hear her over the entire town yelling "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO." I realize that the town wasn't exactly booing ME per say, but as a fragile 16 year old, I was pretty sure my great grand-kids kids would be learning about this game right after their teacher finished the chapter on 9/11.
When the final seconds disappeared from the clock and I realized I hadn't pissed myself, I appreciated my coach's wish to have us nerds feel like we were a part of the experience. We felt it alright, and while I feared for all of our lives for like 3 seconds, I am glad it happened. Would I have been totally fine experiencing it from my warm folding chair? For sure. Did I learn something about human nature and losing with class? Definitely. Did I still get to go to McDonalds after the game? I did.
The next season, or maybe it was the season after that, I was a member of the starting five. Was it the traumatizing final minutes of that game that lit the competitive flame in my bones? Was it the image of the crowd, foaming at the mouth, that made me learn how to use my hips to box heavy set girls out? Was it puberty?
All of the above. But mostly it was because I just couldn't handle smiles like this from the crowd during those last two minutes of those games anymore:
Long story short, I saw those faces of everyone already aboard the train as I sat down on my swass (sweaty ass) and I'll tell you what, I'm leaving my house five minutes earlier from now on. Too many memories.