Monday, July 7, 2008


Last weekend, Nathaniel and I proved exactly why we're not pro basketball players.

It started off innocently enough. Feeling lethargic and unwilling to run in Pensacola’s record heat (and humidity!), we set off for Milton to run aboard the loveley, air conditioned, and new gym on NAS Whiting. Post-workout, we planned on attending the 4th of July festivities, which just so-happened to be located in picturesque downtown Milton.

Running shoes, toiletries, spare clothes, sunscreen, visor, sunglasses, water bottles, ipod, post-workout snack, and everything-else-but-the-kitchen-sink-in-tow, we set off.

After dropping off all items in our designated locker rooms, I met Nathaniel in the main entry way adjacent to the gym, in preparation to make our way over to the treadmills.

“Oh look, sweetheart!” I exclaimed, my excitement rising. “Basketball courts! Maybe we can play afterwards!”

“Uh, sure?” He stammered, wondering where this was coming from.

“Come on, it’ll be fun!” I replied. Humph! I didn’t like it that he didn’t share my enthusiasm for the game of my youth.

For Petes Sake! I grew up watching Indiana Hoosier basketball with my Dad. My heroes were Damon Bailey, Todd Leary, Steve Alford, Calbert Cheney and Alan Henderson. Somewhere in my array of childhood memorabilia, I have the 1993 (or was it 1992?) Sports Illustrated cover with Damon Bailey driving around his Kentucky defender, during the IU victory over the Wildcats. For the record, I also liked Pat Summit and her Tennessee Lady Vols. But my crushes were reserved for the boys.

And besides, our household was all Indiana. And for good reason too: Dad earned his PhD from IU, and enjoyed watching Bob Knight. For the record, Knight did a lot for the university, cared about his players, and had one of the best graduation rates. Growing up, I idolized him.

Things are much different now. (Although if given the chance to meet Damon Bailey, I definitely would!). While I disagree with some of Knight’s antics, I do appreciate what he did for his students and how he took their education seriously.

Additionally, aside from soccer – of which I only had one season due to a newfound 8th grade love of running – I played basketball in junior high school. I was a small forward, who occasionally substituted for guard. Which is pretty funny if you know me; as I’m a mere 5 feet, 4 inches.

What I lacked in height, I more than made up for in motivation.

I could do wind sprints and practice lay up drills with the best of them. And though I couldn’t jump as high as my counterparts, I could make free throws and knew how to dribble. (Except for the one time when I dribbled right off my foot. Oops.)

Suffice to say, I didn’t find my calling in basketball.

Bud it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy a good game now and then, right?

Nathaniel could see the longing in my face and reluctantly agreed. “Well, maybe – if we feel okay after the workout. We’ll see.”

I’ll fast forwards through my run. It was 60 minutes: the max the treadmill would allow without being re-set. And I was entertained for the first 13 minutes by ESPN’s broadcast of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island.

Now there’s a sport I’m glad I don’t participate in. Can you imagine eating as much cheesecake, or hot dogs, or olives, or cherry pie as you could in a given amount of time? Ick! That's enough to put me off tasty treats.

And there's a scary thought!

It came down to a tie-breaker between Japan’s Kobayashi and the USA’s Joey Chestnut. SPOILER ALERT! After consuming 59 hot dogs apiece for the first 12 or 13 minutes of competition, the tie breaker was determined by which participant could consume 5 hot dogs in the shortest amount of time.

After watching Chestnut do some funky-looking ab stretches, I had my money set on him. Well, for that reason and because his mouth was bigger. I figured he could cram at least two suckers in there while Kobayashi would be lucky to get 1 and a quarter.

In the end, I would have won. But I’m not a betting man – er woman – so no go. But it did make the first part of my run speed by.

Oh, and I didn’t ingest a traditional 4th of July hot dog. I saw enough come up from the competitors, thank-you-very-much.

After completing my run, I found Nathaniel lifting weights. I quickly confirmed our basketball date, and we headed over to the new court.

There were already 3 people there, 2 guys who were playing a real game, and a younger kid who was kicking the ball across from one end of the bleachers to another. A future soccer player perhaps?

I quickly zeroed in on a ball, picked it up, and revisited my past. I saw all the great practices, passes, shots made I had made. I heard the crowds roar as I made a great pass or caught a rebound. I could feel the tension as I went up for a shot, sure that the taller girl guarding me would block. She didn’t – for the record. I could see the score board flip up 2 points as my shot went through.


With the memories of my past flooding through my brain, I squared my shoulder, took aim, and let the ball fly….


It would have been nice if the shot had even been close. But sadly, it was not. Didn’t even hit the net.

Just all air.

And that’s pretty much how the rest of the afternoon went.

Nathaniel, though, Mr. “I don’t know if I want to play” made just about every shot that he took. And couldn’t stop grinning.


It was only then that he suggested that we play “PIG”.

“Why PIG?” I asked. “Why not HORSE?”

He looked at me, grinned, and replied, “Because with HORSE we’d be here too long. We’ll never leave.”

Double humph!

Just because I didn’t make my first 12 shots, does NOT mean that I can’t step it up when necessary.

I was just warming up.

But I accepted, figuring that my clutch left handed lay up or 3-point shot just right of the key would bring me through.

I won’t bore you with the details. But I will say, that no shots were made on either side for approximately the fist – oh – 20 or so shots. It was horrible. Neither of us could make a basket. It was beyond embarrassing.

“Look, we’re so awful that we scared them away,” Nathaniel exclaimed, as we watched the other 3 players give us odd looks and leave the court.

Yikes. He wasn’t kidding,

At this rate, we would be lucky to reach “P”, let alone pig. Great.

Eventually, Nathaniel found his touch, and the game would have soon been over. But once I picked up a “g” earning the title that I felt I had rightfully earned to my horrible performance (but I was still having fun!), Nathaniel said that we should change the game to HORSE.

“So you want me to be a H-O-R?” I asked, slightly bemused at my husband’s suggestion. Oldest joke in the book while playing this particular game, I know. But I couldn’t help it. What would you have said?

Thought so.

So our game continued.

But then something changed. I started making my shots.

No, seriously.

I really started making my shots.

The clutch 3s, the free throws, the soft jumpers from the left side. And thought my left handed layups were no-gos, it didn’t matter. We were still having fun.

Only this time, Nathaniel had racked up H-O-R-S to my H-O-R-S.

We were tied.

In the end, I got him with a small jumper from the right pocket. Totally unexpected, especially after being down H-O-R-S to zero. But my Jedi mind tricks proved elemental in my victory and Nathaniel took it well.

As he should have.

For the record, on our very first date, first date ever, he beat me 3 games to 0 in pool. I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.

Not that I’m competitive or anything.


In the end, I realized that having fun and spending time with Nate was far better than making all of my shots. We had such a good time, laughing, joking around, and poking fun of each other’s air balls. I realized that just because I’m totally awful at something, it doesen’t mean that I can’t still have a good time. Or at least try.

Because in the end, I did find my 3 point shot.

Give it another practice or two, and I’ll get that left handed lay up.


Beth said...

I'm glad you found your shot Marit! are an endurance athlete - it just takes you a while to get warmed up. :) By the way - I am HORRIBLE at basketball. Like really, really, really bad. That hand-eye coordination thing is tough! :) Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Oh I love it!!!! Nothing is better than a good game of horse! Glad you had some fun! Jen H. :)

Mel said...

Thank you Marit you brought me back to my youthful days..I also played Basketball and loved it (now I just coach my daughter's team) I would never turn down a game of B-Ball or horse/ guys should try to play around the world next time...that is so much fun and then challenge Nat to the Basketball suicide line will CRUSH him with your speediness :)
Glad you guys had such a fun day...that is great that you guys are working out together too!!!

Amber and Eric Rydholm said...

I'm the same way with bowling, I need 2-3 games before I'm really "on" and start to play well.


Ryan said...

Basketball sucks!

Just because I am 6'5, everyone thinks I can play ball. There is a reason why I like riding a bike because my team ball sports persona is terrible. Let's just say, "AIRBALL,"

And I'll control myself this time with lame jokes I could make about H-O-R!

Glad you are doing good and your swim cap has been much used, I took Teegan to get her hair highlighted pink last week and we have used it almost everyday.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear you still occasionally play the violin, Marit. I really looked up to you in high school!

rr said...

I played bball for 5 years.. and always sucked. I never improved.

Just saw you in Triathlete.. cute picture and great choice/article by Marni!!!

Greg Remaly said...

So based on the fact that he wouldn't let you win one game on your first date, I'm guessing he didn't let you win this time?

I'm the same way, I don't let Court win(consciously, at least) although I feel badly when I beat her. I shouldn't, because she doesn't feel any remorse when she beats me.