No matter the sport, I’ve always been on a bad team. I play CYO basketball and they don’t even-out the teams. Since 3rd grade, I have been stuck with a team that doesn’t care about the game. There are only two or three people who are passionate about basketball. Jacob plays point guard on our team. Every day at recess or lunch, you see him outside with the sixth graders playing basketball. On our free-dress days, you almost always see him wearing some sort of basketball jersey. His family even has Warriors’ season tickets. The second is a sports fanatic named Dean. He plays shooting guard or small forward. He isn’t always playing basketball during recess but, on his Instagram, he is constantly posting videos of him boxing, or playing football or baseball. Then there's me. I might not be able to handle the ball as well as Jacob, but I probably have the best shot on the team. I’ve loved basketball since the third grade and have been practicing ever since. I shoot hoops in my driveway, and watch and evaluate games with my dad.
Last season was horrible. Technically, we won two games, but that was because the other team didn’t show up or there weren’t enough players. One of the two teams we beat, St. Anthony's, had only three players that showed up at the game. They forfeited, but our coaches decided to have a friendly scrimmage. Two of our teammates volunteered to play with the opposing team. Even though my two teammates didn’t score and the three players from the other team scored all their points, we still lost. Driving home I talked and laughed with my parents. It wasn’t such a big deal because I was so used to losing. Most games I would be satisfied if we didn’t make many stupid turnovers and if I made a couple shots.
This season I felt like we were making some progress. Thomas, who hadn’t made a single shot the last season, made quite a few. Alistair, who practically planted his feet on the wing like a tree, started to cut, set screens and move around the court like Draymond Green. Even though we still had low expectations, losing started to feel like a paper cut. It only hurt for a second but I’d still want to seal it up. The thing is, most games started out well. We might have gotten down 4 or 5 points, but that wasn’t much. Then, towards the end of the third quarter or 4th quarter, we’d start to break down. Most of our players would start to get tired. Our defense would collapse because we weren’t hustling and we’d start forcing bad shots. In the end we would lose by 12 or 15 points. Our coach would make us huddle near the corner of the gym. He would scratch his grey hair and lecture us. Most of my teammates would zone out and say “yeah” in response to his rhetorical questions. Then, we do a “2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate,” shake hands with the other team and go home. The car rides home became more quiet. I would quietly lean my head against the window and I wouldn’t laugh as much. I was tired of losing. Then, toward the end of the season, we had a rematch with St. Anthony’s.
At first, I saw St. Anthony’s coach and four players doing some sort of basketball drill. I thought that they were going to forfeit just like the year before, but, as I walked into our gym, I noticed three players with St. Anthony’s jerseys on, watching the current game and my hope shattered like glass. We had lost the game last year even when there were only 3 players on the other team. Now there were seven. We were doomed.
Half an hour later, both teams were on the court, waiting for the referee to toss the ball into the air. St. Anthony’s starters got the ball first because of their insanely tall forward. We were constantly up by a few points in the first half, but then we started losing due to some turnovers. One kid on the other team hurt his ankle and wasn’t able to play for the rest of the game. Other than that, it was like every other game. But, in the third quarter, we started building a lead. Another player on the other team got a technical foul because he was frustrated and threw the ball at me after I blocked his shot. Then, suddenly, there were two minutes left, we were up 12 points, and I realized that we were going to win this game.
One time, when I was around 10 years old, I was on a good soccer team. We won or tied every game, except for the championship game. At first, it felt really good, constantly beating teams 7-2, but it started to get boring. There was no challenge. But this basketball game was not like that. When my basketball team won this game, it was special because we hadn’t won in years and because we had to work hard for it. After the game, instead of going crazy celebrating, we sat there laughing saying, “Finally, we won a game.” Some of my friends and I went to Fentons to celebrate with giant bowls of ice cream. We laughed and partied, not caring that we still had the worst record in the CYO.
The season ended a few weeks later by playing St. Anthony's again. We lost but the game it was still competitive. I actually ended the season on the bench after being poked in the eye. There was an inbound play and I was defending the same person who had gotten a technical foul in the last game. While I was defending him, I hand-checked him and he got angry and twisted my arm. I put my arm out again and he poked his fingers into my eye and pushed. The season didn’t end too well, but that didn’t erase the pleasure of winning a game. Last season, some of us couldn't make many shots, but this season we improved. Last season, most of us didn’t move around the court, but now we set screens, and cut. And even though we were the worst team, I still love basketball. Judging by their effort, I think more of my teammates have started to love it too.