Thursday, April 12, 2012

On Basketball Glory Days, and How They Apply to My Writing Career

First of all, it's fun to look back at ourselves when we were younger.  Sometimes.  In this case, a fellow high school/community college student unearthed a highlight video of my community college's 1993-94 basketball season.  It was a tremendous season. Kinda one of those "storybook" experiences that would transfer really well to a novel or even movie.

We came into the season loaded with talent.  And, BCC (Broome Community College) had a pretty solid reputation.  They were powerhouses back in the sixties and seventies, but most recently, they'd sported decent teams often hampered by grade troubles in the classroom. 

ERGO, they'd post good first semesters, then when grades came out, they'd lose quite a few a players for second semester.  This actually happened my sophomore year at Broome. We lost our point guard, and also our back-up point guard to low grades.

Anyway, we didn't lose anyone to grades my freshman year, but the way we played first semester, it didn't seem like it'd matter.  Lots of tension on the court.  Players not getting along or working together.  Some racial issues, too. Also, matters of philosophy. It was a mix of kids who grew up playing in the city and kids like myself who grew up playing in the country.  A divide opened up.

We ended the first semester 6-6, I believe.  Not bad, but not as good as we should've been.  And when the second semester began, we immediately dropped our first two games.  

6-8.

Us squabbling, not getting along.  Didn't have to worry about grades ruining our season, we were doing just fine for ourselves.

And then something "happened."  That's the only way I can describe it.  After one particularly disastrous game, at the hotel that night, one of our captains said something along the lines of: "Screw it. I'm not having any fun. Are you guys having any fun? This supposed to be fun." 

So we ordered some pizzas, hung out in each other's rooms, watched movies....maybe raised a little low-grade Cain....

And had fun.

And proceeded to win our next 10 games straight.  Dropped a game, then won six more.  Then, after losing in the Conference Championship - which still awarded us Co-Conference  Champion status - we destroyed a city team in a sub-regional game, then tore a swath through the Region III tournament, to become Region III champs, and earning a berth in the 1992-93 NJCAA National Tournament. 

Our first game?  Against a team that had solidly beaten us earlier in the year, defending National Champs, Delhi Tech...on their home floor.  Because back then, if you won the tournament, you got to host it every year as long as you posted a 500 record.  So there we were.  Facing off against the defending national champions,  who had already beaten us once that year, on their home floor, opening game of the National Tournament.

And we destroyed them. In front of their home crowd.

Now, we got got destroyed in the next round against a power-house Sullivan County Community College team - all five of their starters had signed letters of intent to Division I schools - but even so, that whole season was like one big, unbelievable dream. Especially catapulting from 6-8 to 26-10, Conference Co-Champs, Region III Champs, and placing 5th in the nation.  Not a bad season's work, I'd say.  

And for me personally, that season served as an affirmation. I was one of our high school's best players, but we were such a small school.  Doubt always plagued me how  "good" I was.  Could I make it at the next level?  Well, discovering that had been delayed for a year, because the year before I'd attended Binghamton University (back then, only Division III), where I'd originally been recruited.  And I'd broken my wrist in tryouts, had to sit the year out.

So at the beginning of this season, I hadn't played for a year, and was pretty out of shape. Oh yeah, and I couldn't run very fast or jump very high, either (think: stereotypical white guy).  And I didn't start the first game, which made me wonder how the season would go. However, that game I was determined to show Coach what I had.  We had four guards who averaged double figures, so I knew I wouldn't score much.  Plus, my shooting hadn't adapted to the quickness of the college game.  So I did everything else I could that one game to prove I deserved to start:

- dived on every lose ball
- took charges 
- dived out of bounds for lose balls
- rebounded
- and did whatever the coach told me to do, all the time

And it must've worked, because I started every game for the rest of the season.  Also collected 33 charges in 36 games, earning the nickname Mastercharge, scored 10 points in the Regional Championship, finally hitting some jump shotsSo not only was that season awesome on the team level, it was awesome on a personal level.  

Ironically, when I get frustrated with my pace along my writing career, I always go back to that first season - because it's the work that matters.  You do the work, every day...and things will fall as they should.  And so far, that has held true as a writer, too.

Anyway, one of my friends unearthed the following highlight reel.  You can see me (33) at the 1:46 and 1:56 marks:


Ironically enough, this team also boasted a stand-up comedian in guard Paul Morrissey (22). Not only was Paul a point guard extraordinaire with a killer hesitation move, he's gone on to perform live on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson" on CBS, HBO Comedy Festival, and "Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen."  And, that team also featured English teacher and Comic Artist Andy Slocum (Think the Far Side with animals). 

One thing I've always wanted to do is write a novel about that season.  Which makes a sort of poetic sense, because it was at BCC - up in their library - where I wrote my first short stories.  I've even got a name - provided by Paul Morrissey, on one of our road trips: A Season Is A Lifetime.  And I don't even think it'd need to be horror.

Of course, I am what I am and, most importantly, who I am.  I'm sure there's some way I could write a "coming-of-age basketball story" and mix something dark and spooky into it.

It's just what I do....