BY ALL ACCOUNTS In the Transition Game, Hoop Dreams Shouldn’t Die

Greed and Insecurity Can Sidetrack Our Childhood Aspirations Lots of charcoal suits and shiny ties wandering around campus these days, the kind of clothes that sit just so on the shoulders of the guys who have mortgaged their dreams for a chance to interview with Mssrs. Solomon, Smith or Barney.

Back in third grade, everyone at my school wrote down their dreams. We were just old enough to have a sense of what made us happy. We saw ourselves as the future artists, teachers and veterinarians of America. Our happiness was unadulterated by greed and untainted by the pressures of social status.

That’s why Andrew Kanarek wanted to be a clown and the Klockner twins wanted to be race car drivers. It’s why Gianni Toto wanted to be a taxi driver and my good friend Dan Brehon wanted to be “either a writer, scientist or a person who invents medicine.” It’s why Joe Emde wanted to be “what [his] father is.”

As for me, it’s why I wanted to a “sports player,” or what I would later refer to as an athlete. And it’s why I came within 20 feet of trying out for the basketball team this weekend.

The idea germinated at Midnight Madness, an event no amount of obnoxious programming and deficient organization can ruin. Midnight adness is great because it is fundamentally about a few thousand students celebrating the accomplishments of the elite athletes who are also their classmates.

As they stride in the spotlight toward center court, it’s hard not to think they’re realizing their own dreams. That’s what I like, and the reason I laced up my Nike Air Apparati M-XVIs Sunday afternoon and marched toward the testing grounds of Mc-Donough Gymnasium.

Somewhere in the pedestrian passage that cuts through the Southwest Quadrangle construction zone, I realized I was in the grasp of an eminently ill-conceived idea. My mind cleared as if the gelatinous mass of my brain had been dumbly quivering since the idnight Madness emcee started chanting “H-to-the-izzO, Y-to-the-izzA.”

Initially, I thought the idea was lousy because if I didn’t get hurt, I might hurt someone else, perhaps badly. I had forgotten that I am a miserable basketball player. I’ve played intramurals every semester I’ve been here and I only remember winning one game (I don’t think I have forgotten any, either). I play pickup games a few times a week and my game is stuck on the plateau of mediocrity. I play like Cherokee Parks.

But I was not so deranged to think there would be a uniform with my name on it this season, nor did I expect to be one of the guys with just a number on the back of his jersey. No, I did not turn around at this point, because I never expected to make the team.

I pressed on, looking for an aerobic diversion from my day of study. I wavered when I realized there might be people at the tryout who actually dreamed of making the team – who actually wanted to make the team. And I’m so bad I make everyone on the court look like Frederic Weis, and that’s when I’m playing well.

I didn’t want to ruin their chances; for that matter, I didn’t want to ruin the team’s season. If Craig Esherick knew what was good for him, he must avert his eyes from the catastrophe that is my game.

Fears of embarrassment and injury could not stop me. I tried to invent reasons not to go through with it, but none of them worked.

I went through this scenario in my head: The coaching staff, inexplicably, tells everyone to stage a flashy end to a fast-break. Since I’m not so good with the lay-ups, I pull up for a three, but my shot is off because my nipples are slightly chafed from yesterday’s long jog. Airball, and Esherick laughs a sonorous, contagious belly laugh. The camera pulls back and the whole campus, the whole city, the whole nation, the whole world – they’re all laughing.

I looked through the doors into the trophy-lined forum of cDonough, and I realized that this wasn’t my dream at all.

I shouldn’t be trying out for the basketball team any more than Dave Brubeck should be auditioning for Bubba Sparxxx’s backup band.

High-level sports aren’t, and never will be, my thing. My brothers are great athletes and I’m fine enough. Someday I’ll join a men’s league or maybe I’ll just play with my family. I am now, and always will be, a sports player.

You see, I think some dreams are negotiable – I don’t have to be a professional athlete to be a sports player and Joe Emde doesn’t have to do what his father does to be what his father is.

Maybe we don’t even have to live out our third grade dreams. But if we don’t ask why we put on the slick suits and sleek ties, if we cave into greed and status, we either won’t be happy or we won’t be true. And I’m not sure which is worse.

By All Accounts appears every Tuesday in The Hoya. The author can be reached at haggertythehoya.com

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