Thursday, July 15, 2004

The last guy

3.... 2...1... My feet line up behind the three-point line. I raise the ball. The ball flicks off of my fingers and is launched at the hoop 19 feet - 9 inches away. It looks like it might actually go in.

I love playing sports. I'll never get tired of suiting up for any sport, just to try and see what I can do. I've never really excelled at any particular sport, but when I was younger I really loved playing basketball. I couldn't dribble well. I really couldn't run or jump as well as the rest of my friends, but I really enjoyed playing. So, as a result of my lack of abilities, I was stationed at the end of the bench. Honestly, I felt like Ollie from Hoosiers. Even when my name was called, it was something that didn't register. I always felt like the coach was just joking when he yelled, "HAAG!" He couldn't really want me out there; he just wanted some comic relief.

The Cambridge JV basketball team in 1989-90 was a pretty good one. We had a few pretty good players and we were, as I recall, the best team in the league. For some funny reason though, the games were always too close to let me get to play though. 20 points up with 30 seconds to go? Best to leave Glen on the bench.

So, when I got to Dodgeland I never really thought that I would have an impact on the game. I knew that this was going to be one of the easier teams for our team to beat this season, so my chances of getting into the game were decent.

Our team came out and looked absolutely awful. They were constantly making the same mistakes over and over again. It was an incredibly ugly game. After a while my bench warming cohorts and I noticed that there were some chains that were hanging on the walls. I mean, what else can you do when you are wearing a uniform, but don't really play for the team.

I still can't figure out why there were chains there. It was rural Wisconsin, so maybe they were planning on stringing some people up after the game... who knows?

The second half began better for our team. We started to put a bit of distance between us and the other team, and the pine riders started to become a bit restless. Before we knew it, a few guys had actually found there way onto the floor, but I still lingered at the end of the bench.

Then I got the call. "Haag, get in there, small forward."

I have to love small town basketball. Only there could a 5'8" kid play forward.

The 3rd quarter ended with a whimper. No shots for me, no points, no rebounds. I was doing my best to try and keep up to my averages. It's pretty damn hard to keep a 0.1 points per game average, and it took a player of a certain skill set to do it.

One thing that I found out was that the clock seems to move quite a bit faster when you're actually playing in a game. I hadn't ever really gotten to experience this before, so when I noticed that the clock was down to 3 minutes, it was pretty surprising. The clock stopped when one of my fellow benchwarmers managed to foul out. Let me make this clear, he fouled out in 6 minutes. That's an impressive feat, one that I've yet to see repeated.

I got fouled taking a shot and got sent to the free throw line. I wasn't a good shooter, so it wasn't too shocking that I missed both shots and the clock continued to run.

Before I knew it, there was only a few seconds left on the clock and I was set to inbound the ball to one of my teammates. There was only 5 seconds left in the game, and I was the only player who hadn't scored. 13 guys had call put the ball in the basket, 1 couldn't manage to have the ball drop.

I threw the pass in and streaked down the sideline, and noticed that no one was covering me. The ball was passed back to me and I set myself to take a final shot, as the clock would run out. I never thought for one second that the shot would go in. Not for one nano-second did I think I would make that shot. Strangely, that's what happened.

I've often wondered what the players on the other team thought as the game ended. All I remember is that the referee's arm went up, and the shot fell in, and then I was carried off of the court by my teammates. A career 0.1 points per game player, carried off the court like he just hit the shot that won the national championship.

Did I mention that we won the game by 30? If anyone ever wonders how good I am at sports, that's the first thing I ever tell them. I hit a three pointer at the buzzer for our team to win... by 30.

My coach seemed to be looking to me for comic relief. I did my best to provide that.


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