In basketball, relative to other players my age, I peaked in sixth grade. I played in the “after school basketball” program at Flatirons Elementary School. We played on nine-foot rims and on a shorter than regulation court. I was something of a star, averaging seventeen points per game (according to my possibly untrustworthy memory) while playing three of the four six minute quarters. For years I held the season free throw percentage record that was posted on a school wall. I remember from introductions that I was 4’11 1/2 inches tall. (The centers were in the 5’3” to 5’5” range). I played point guard.
If there was a better player than me it was a fifth grade friend named Jason who went on to play high school and college ball, but at that point I could still play with him.
I can still taste my own competitiveness in the memory of a crucial game where I felt wronged by the system. The fifth grade teacher, Mr. Hanson, who I liked a lot, made all of the lineups, and tried to be fair. For the third quarter of a playoff game (was it the finals?), however, Mr. Hanson put both me and my brother (one year behind me and our other starting guard) on the bench, leaving my team with no talent in the back court. I had a good game, but Mr. Hanson let a starting guard for our opponent play that quarter against our hapless backups. The mismatch gave the other team enough of an advantage to win a close one. I am still mad about it.
Almost thirty years have passed. Perhaps it is time to let go of that injustice. My basketball career from that point onward was not illustrious, but I am still playing and enjoying myself. I grew another one foot two and a half inches. I went on to be a backup guard in junior high, and an intramural player (usually a forward) in high school, college and grad school. Since then I have somehow managed to find a group of guys who are at my level. Currently we rent a gym together and play Sunday mornings.I enjoy competition and prefer activities where it is part of the atmosphere. I feel most competitive when the game is close, it is down to the wire, when I think I can make a difference, and when I think my team is counting on me. When those conditions are true (in any endeavour) I am most involved, most focused, most alive.