For The Love Of The Game

“I’m too old for this.”58417156_df282af5f1 - Version 2

That is my primary thought on Sunday nights as I run up and down the brilliant hardwood of a local middle school. It’s a pure thought, earnest and true.

(A few secondary thoughts include: “Four more points and we can stop for water,” “Miss it, miss it, miss it…” and “I am so going to die our here.”)

The fact is, I have retired from pickup basketball twice already because of repeated ankle injuries. And someday soon the ability to walk normally and with minimal pain will again trump my desire to steal passes, knock down three-pointers, and/or congratulate other sweaty, middle-aged men for winning a game that no one will remember five minutes after the final basket.

My last foray less than a week ago netted me a lumpy cut under my left eye, a severe leg cramp, a re-injury of my oft-re-injured left ankle, and losing the series 3 games to 2.

Still, every week I strap on the ankle braces and lace up the high-tops, drive 30 minutes with my oldest son, perform a few half-hearted stretches, and run around like a teenager maniacally bent on coercing the orange sphere up and over the iron rim, then back down through its nylon skirt.

I literally suffer for this privilege. It makes no logical sense. But my buddies and me all show up and do it anyway.

And it’s a lot like writing or painting or other solitary art forms. Writing takes time and energy and resources. Eventually it takes a toll. I’ll spend hours crafting a piece of flash fiction only to have it either a) sit in obscurity on my hard drive, b) have it rejected by some overworked multitasking “editor” in another part of the country (happened twice this week!), or c) have it “published” somewhere…which basically means it will sit in obscurity somewhere other than my hard drive.

No NBA scouts will show up one Sunday and offer me a contract. Likewise, most everything I write will earn me a single red cent or even a handful of attaboys. But I’ll keep showing up as long as my mind and body will allow.

It must be the love of the game. Or maybe it’s insanity. Or maybe there’s very little difference between the two?

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