On Tuesday night, we played in our D-League basketball game, our third of the season. Though we were seeing marked improvement, it was obvious that our next opponent -- Latinos Unidos -- were going to be our toughest test yet. (You can see further perspective this by visiting Willie's and Toastie's blogs.)
Were they ever! We lost by -- and I'm not exaggerating -- 96 points. That very well may be the largest blowout in the history of basketball going back to the great James Naismith's original 13 rules. Certainly the largest of the shot clock era. Were we outmanned? Yes. Were we outplayed? Of course. Were we out-talent...ed...? No question.
Were we outclassed? Not a chance.
This team went on a 40-0 run. I'll repeat that score so you know it's not a typo. 40-0. Forty to zero. And yet, for the rest of the game, this team continued to full-court press us and run all kinds of fancy run-and-gun plays on us. Sure, they were able to do it, and it was all legal, but was there any honor or integrity involved? No way.
(Side note: I was injured slightly. Nothing big, but I have a small triangle of bruises around my left eye. I was trying to be strong in the paint on defense, and when an errant shot was coming down, I naturally jumped for it. Simultaneously, one of the larger Latinos Unidos came down on me with an elbow to the face. It wasn't intentional, but it was a foul. Yet no foul was called. I was knocked to the ground shell-shocked for a few moments, and came out of the game. When halftime rolled around, I went to one of the refs -- with whom we entrusted $36 per team -- if there was a foul called on that play, as I had been too groggy to notice. The ref said there was no foul; his ref crony chimed in saying oh no no, the ball hit me. It was the ball. Now, I don't have a shiner or anything, but looking at my eye, it's clear that no basketball made this imprint. The bruises are in positions where a basketball could not left the remnants. Also, my glasses were snapped in half from the impact. I'm no forensics specialist, but the way my specs broke was more indicative of a sharp, elbow-like blow than a round, blunt blow. I asked my teammates, "Did the ball hit me in the face?" And one of my teammates said, "If by 'ball' you mean 'elbow,' then yes." Seriously, what do you have to do to get a foul in this league?)
This team did not do the Latino people proud. Now a lot of people will say, "I'm not a racist, but...." Well, I really am not a racist. I love all people of all races. I was what one might call a "wigger" in high school (and what one would now call "a teenager"), and in college I lived with a multi-ethnic group for a few years. I really have no hatred, malice or prejudice against any race or ethnic contingent. So like I was saying, I'm not a racist but...
These players were reinforcing every stereotype that you could think of regarding inner-city youths. They were talking trash, showboating, yelling when others were taking shots, full-court pressing all game long (did I mention that?). All the reasons that white racist people hate the inner-city athlete, they exemplified. I started to hate these guys. They probably aren't bad guys, but the classless way they conducted themselves over the course of this game was off-putting. It wasn't fun anymore, now it was just irritating. It was to the point that when I saw any people of latino descent for the next few days, I subconsciously became embittered, because it reminded me of this game. (This brings on the notion of racism due to prior experience with a certain race, but that's a topic for another blog.)
It makes me angry inside to know that this stupid basketball game made me feel like that. But it did. We found out later that these guys played for the Spanish Action League, but I must say I was not impressed with this organization, considering the cocky and trash-talking manner in which these young men conducted themselves. If this team is one of the ways you are reaching out to the community, well, I'm afraid Latinos Unidos are simply setting themselves back. I can't imagine people watching a bunch of guys act like this (whether it be in organized play or a pick-up game on a playground) and being impressed with their conduct. Very very disappointing. (And I'm sorry, when you're pressing all game long and you're up by 75 points, don't play the "That's how we play" card. You're not protecting the integrity of your defensive philosophy, you're trying to humiliate the other team. Don't bullshit me.)
It was a very disappointing hour of my life. But my friend Mr. (soon to be Dr.) Mark Phelps helped me see the perspective of all of it. We were in the locker room, taking off our sweaty clothes (to change into clean ones, you filthy little pigs) and one of the Latinos overheard me and Phelps talking about Phelps being in med school. (Phelps, the poor bastard, stood for 12 straight hours for surgery, and still came up with some solid rebounding for our team. I'm proud of ya, Phelpsy.) The guy mentioned that he had had some surgery a few years prior because of a tumor or some shit. Whatever. I was still pissed off about my aching eyeball.
Then Phelps, better man than me, told the guy they played very well and congrats and good luck, etc. The guy said thanks. He mentioned that they practiced at least 3-4 times a week and were the champions at every level in which they played. I sort of shook my head. When the guy left, Phelps said, "You can tell that's all they have." And he was right. Phelps continued, "I don't get my self-esteem from playing basketball, but you can tell that's where he gets his." Again, he ain't pre-med for nothing, folks. I realized, if this makes them feel better about themselves, let 'em have it. I don't get my self-esteem from playing hoops either. And thank God for that.
Besides, tonight we went to Clark's Ale House and totally whooped some ass in trivia. We came in 2nd place, only lost by 5 points, and got a $15 gift certificate, all with a pretty good turnout, too. I'd like to see the Latinos Unidos do that. I'll guarantee we would win by more than 96. Bring that shit to my house, bitches.