For the last few months I have been playing B-Ball. That’s basketball for those of you who weren't raised on the backstreets of the 90s like I was.
I come from an era when basketball was as much about fashion as it was sport, when Michael Jordan was more adored than the Pope (despite Pope John Paul II’s ability to dunk, which is a rare thing for clergy) and when sneakers were pumped up and cost three times more if they included Air. It was also that time when we thought an Hakeem Olajuwon autograph card was someday going be a deposit for a house. Now it couldn't even cover the cost of a dog kennel.
My association to the game basketball is wrapped up in a nostalgic period of my boyhood, when I was two things that don't apply as much now; I was taller than 99% of my peers and I had some game.
When I was about 11 years old, the Bulls were on a basketball rampage winning the first of their three peats. Somehow the NBA internationalised its appeal and found its way to the costal environs of the southern parts of Australia.
We spent our lunchtimes making bad Magic Johnson HIV jokes and trying to dunk. I remember that my ability to hit the backboard was highly praised.
This is ironic as the same skill today brings forth only frustration from my team mates.
It seems I am no longer the young Tony Kukoc I once was. My game isn't 'on' these days. I am now only taller than 89% of my peers and a large percentage of them seem to also play Men’s Thursday Night Division 2 Social Basketball at the Life Be in it Centre.
I also attribute my lack of basketball talent in this my Scott Pippen year (33) to the fact I am as blind as Horrace Grant but without the mad scientist optometrist to make me some sports specs out of snowboarding goggles.
My wife (my Phil Jackson, being a bit of a bball star until doing her knee) has tried to coach me into some form. He advice was to concentrate on my D. I forgot that this referred to defence and not the mark she had awarded me for my performances to date.
Over the last few games for the team I have become a defensive beast. My biggest issue, coming from a football background, is trying not to get fouled out. I also struggle to recall the sassy lines from NBA Jam quickly enough to get them out between gasping breaths.
I have enjoyed my time running up and down the court on those Thursday nights. It has been fun to play and even more funny to see how serious some people can take Men’s social basketball at the division 2 level. I guess with society now frowning upon harassing seagulls in public, these men need to take out their frustrations somehow.
Tomorrow night, the Wolves (that’s the team I play in along with a few guys from church…sounded better than the Disciples of Dunk) play off in the ground final.
Chances are I will get fouled off, miss three times more than I score and will struggle to differentiate between my team mates, the ref and the vending machine - but at least I’ll be having fun! One thing that I am good at in my Pippen Year is nostalgia. That I can do better than any 90’s kid.