Today I played pick-up basketball at the Hamilton Rec Center in Novato. We got a great run in, played a ton of games, and had a lot of fun. When we finished up, one of my teammates, Vito (if you were wondering, yes he would have been well cast for “The Sopranos”), said “Keep it up Ben, you are a great athlete.” I tried to be gracious, smiled and said, “thanks,” but I was stunned and realized that no one has ever called me a great athlete.
I have been told that I have a nice stroke (basketball shot), an acute ability to anticipate in football, a good work ethic, and impressive self-taught technique during my short-lived Olympic Weightlifting career, but I have never been told that I was a “great athlete” . . . until today.
In reality I’m not a gifted athlete, I don’t possess a great deal of innate speed, quickness, or explosiveness, but over the course of the last 25 weeks I have worked tirelessly and intelligently to improve my inherently lackluster, god-given athletic ability. Based upon the way I played in our pick-up games today and the fact that I was grabbing the rim with two hands and hanging on it between games, Vito called me a “great athlete.” Although I have yet to realize my goal/dream of dunking a basketball, I am making great strides and I have improved my athletic ability tremendously.
One of the guys playing with us, named Mike, was an incredibly gifted athlete. He was my age, about 5’9’’, and probably weighted a buck fifty soaking wet and he could absolutely fly. After the first game, I went up and grabbed a rim with two hands, and watched Mike as he proceeded to easily throw himself an alley-oop off the backboard. My jaw dropped. I asked him how long it took him to get the timing down on the alley-oop and he said, “I just tried it once and it worked.” I congratulated him and told him how impressive it was, but on the inside I was fuming. My internal monologue went a little something like this, “I have been training hard for 25 weeks to dunk a basketball and this kid, who has probably never really “trained” for anything in his life, just decided one day that he was going to throw himself an alley-oop off the backboard and it just worked.” Needless to say I was pissed and force-fed a gigantic slice of humble pie.