The school year is winding down and I finally have time to reflect on what a glorious year it has been. For me personally, and the seven boys and one mangy mutt that made up the George R.R. Martin High School basketball team (Go bullfrogs!). Sure, I’m just under 5’8” soaking wet, and also just under 5’8” bone dry but I was smart enough to know that the key to basketball wasn’t assembling an assortment of genetically altered superhumans who don’t get tired, who don’t feel pain and play to win by any means necessary (although, now that I think about that, I may look into it). No. Instead, a basketball team is all about heart and communication and that indefinable fire in the belly of a group of kids (technically, a group of kids is referred to as a “bushel”) who know that no matter what happens they will probably never get to go to college because the social mobility in this country is truly awful. They play all the harder for it.
I’ll admit the first few games were a little rough. I’m willing to take some of the blame for that but as I mentioned at the intervention, I have every intention of getting help and the pain medication is MEDICALLY PRESCRIBED for my chronic back and mind pain by my uncle Lionel who was a licensed doctor before the incident (of which, I should add, he was found NOT GUILTY by reason of insanity). In any case, I am the coach and the buck stops here. Could we have won a few of those games had I been able to stand up or not slur my words? Maybe. Maybe not. We are imperfect beings in an imperfect world and only the Lord Almighty truly knows what could have happened. Like I always tell my team, “Coulda, woulda, shoulda, ain’t worth a darn thing, now go fetch your old coach another whiskey sour.” I also plan on seeing professionals about the drinking (as per my agreement with the school board).
The rocky start did give way to a miraculous run though. At the very least give me credit for that. Many of you have expressed both privately and publicly that you don’t believe it was my coaching that was the catalyst to the turn around and I admit at first glance, to the untrained eye, it probably appears that way. But let me stress that this was all part of the plan. Losing 4 straight – including one that was a forfeit because the coach threw a basketball at a Ref’s head – to many outside observers, may seem like suicide, or at the very least a cry for help, but ask any old school coach about it and they’ll tell you. It’s a strategy that has been employed successfully again and again to win basketball games dating back as far as the Roman republic (earliest known example according to Wikipedia? Would you believe “42 B.C.E. ?). In the air force that’s what we called a “controlled stall.” Even after we started picking up steam there were detractors. Several parents seemed to suggest that it was the alleged bribes that they claimed I was not only giving to the referees but that I was stupid enough to loudly brag about on pretty much any occasion. My response? If you’re referring to Rachel’s wedding, then I’ll have you know that I was so high on intravenously injected narcotics that I couldn’t string two words together and find it PRETTY HARD TO BELIEVE that I would be capable of not only saying that, but, that my imagination was functioning at such a level where I could feasibly invent something like that. Doesn’t ring true in my book. But again, why don’t we worry about the things we do know and let God Almighty worry about the rest, k?
Whatever the reason, although definitely NOT bribery, our team got much better. I attribute that to my insisting on two-a-days for the remainder of the season. I couldn’t believe it but even THAT came under the critical gaze of the armchair generals who think they could do better than me. Apparently none of the amateur Bobby Knights out there had ever seen the film classic, “The Karate Kid” because when parents caught wind of me making the team do manual labor at my doublewide trailer they were up in arms! I weathered that abuse, like Jackie Robinson before me, because I knew I would have history on my side. Again, let me stress that I didn’t KNOW KNOW because I definitely did NOT bribe anyone. Looking back on it now I can’t help but feel that that whole ordeal was a teachable moment for the younger kids who needed a true leader to show that when you are doing what is right you can’t waiver. I’m man enough to admit that the thought of that gets me choked up a bit.
I’m also man enough to admit that I did indeed have what the shrink they have me seeing refers to as a “severe relapse” and what I refer to as “just having a good time, everyone stop your worrying.” Do I regret missing the final game of the season because I was laying half out of my mind in a ditch by the 7-11 rambling about AIDs infected mosquitoes? I sure do. Do I regret screaming at the top of my lungs for literally hours until the cops came and arrested me? I sure do. But I do NOT regret the time I had with those kids. The look of just absolute devastation on their young faces when I came in the next day, head apounding, to find that they had yet again had to forfeit a game because their head coach was a no show and therefore missed out on going to the championship told me everything I needed to know. These kids LOVED the game. How else could you explain the tears? I built, from the ground up, a basketball team that in the end was more than a basketball team – they were a family. And I, well I was their papa.
I need someone to bail me out of jail. I wrecked my car because I was allegedly abusing ‘scrips, eating Taco Bell, and driving with my knees while cruising an easy 25 above the posted speed limit. I wouldn’t normally ask but I spent all of my money on bribes. Let me know when you can get here.