White Men Can't Jump
I used to watch him after school. You can get really close to the basket in the gym if you crawl under the little risers on the short side, rather than the main ones on the long side. I was right behind the basket. From there I'd be facing him as he ran towards me. I had to sit on some of the struts with my head at stomach-level, otherwise, if he just looked across, he'd see me. I could've stood up, but then he'd've seen me. I'm taller'n him. By a lot. That's part of the point.
I used to joke with myself that I could hide in the dark in a way that he couldn't, but it's not really that dark under the bleachers; the flourescents get everywhere, and it's more like a bright grey down there.
So what I had was a great view of his stomach, which was interesting, because when you're playing, or when you're watching people play, the one thing you never look at is their stomachs. He used to wear these normal sized t-shirts in high school -- back before everybody had to wear oversize stuff even on the court -- so when he reached for it his shirttail would ride up and I could watch how his stomach muscles stretched and bunched. It's something you never think about, you just do it, or don't do it. And early on, he did it wrong. You could tell by the way his stomach muscles worked. And as he caught on and started to do it right, you could see the difference in the way his stomach worked.
I learned a lot from this, but that's not why I watched him. I mean, we didn't know each other very well. We didn't socialize. After a while I got really aware of what my belly was doing and I could visualize it in my head and make it do what I wanted it to do that way. And I made sure that I never did what he was doing. He was like a negative example.
I guess it's weird. I don't know. He had something that no one else had. He was always an alternate, and senior year, he didn't even make the team. He improved a lot, but so did the rest of us, and we started out ahead. His thing was that he never gave up. It's not like it sounds. It's not like: "Dude is so cool, he never gives up." Everybody gives up. Everybody gives up. The guys who make the team, the guys who start, like me, we're determined, and disciplined, and all that. We work for it, hard. But none of us work for it if we don't get some idea early on that we're going to be good, if we don't get, like, praise, and encouragement, and "you're a rock star!" and shit. We need to know that the work is going somewhere.
He didn't need to know that the work was going somewhere. He just kept doing it and doing it. It was so obvious that he was never going to get the Stuff. He might never make the team, and if he did, he wasn't going pro. Not ever. Too short. He quit growing at 15 already, it was pretty obvious. He did it beyond the point that normal people get bored. I'd watch him go at it for, like, two hours after school; set up after set up, fail after fail. His progress was so slow you couldn't see it. Not at all. I'd get bored watching him and wouldn't do it for a few months, and when I came back, he'd be better, but so little better that I'd be discouraged. All we ever said to each other was a chin-jerk. But there's something about that ability to just keep doing it that gets under my skin, you know? In what way, I'm not sure.
I don't know if I admire it or not. Dude won a YouTube contest. Yeah. Good for him. But then what? I mean, maybe that time could've been spent going again and again and again at something he was actually going to be really, really good at, and not just good at because he spent so damn many hours. And what about all the other stuff around it? I mean, that username: whiteflightbd. It's not like he doesn't know. His dad pushed that on him. Thought it was funny. Fine, whatever, but he could've done one less dunk and spent that time thinking for a second about how that name was a bad idea. I can't even feel bad for him 'cause I was the rock star in school and he wasn't. He was the weird kind of in, but not really, dude who had people to hang out with but no real close friends. Or maybe he did and I just didn't know any of them. All my friends played, maybe his friends didn't. Maybe that's why he wasn't that good.
I don't know if I admire him or if I think he's kind of sad and horrible. No, I didn't obsess much. But there's something in him that I just don't have, something that no one I know has. And maybe that's a good thing. Because there's something in me, something much more obvious, that he just doesn't have. And I'd rather have mine than his.
Please note, folks, this is fiction! I just made it up! I don't know this guy or anything about him!