The Champ is Here!!

In the last ten years in my struggle to avoid responsibility and concentrate on only those things important to me only certain constants have never lost their value. Of course my family and friends will always take precedence over everything. But of my interests other than those, In the Fall there is Fantasy football and there is nothing else. I live during the weeks only to know what will happen the upcoming Sunday, mostly as it relates to my fantasy football team. There are cards, which has not only been a source of livelihood but also the one thing that can keep my attention for hours on end on every occasion I play. And then of course there is Intramural sports at Tulane. Of the three I have not invested more time, energy and emotion into any moreso than intramurals. I fancy myself a very talented basketball player and have for a while. My first year I was mired in obscurity and ended up playing from the bench for a team I was obviously one of the best players for. We did not make the playoffs that year, and in no small part was my diminutive roll on the team to blame. So the next year I went out and got my own team. We would lose a very disappointing first round game in the playoffs, but I felt myself getting better. My third year I had managed to put together a pretty good squad. I had found a ridiculous stroke the summer before and was blazing up the league with three pointers.

Me and my friend both averaged over 25 points per game during the regular season, but that all came to a screeching halt in the playoffs to a team I looked past because there was no doubt in my mind we were better than them. Me, and my friend Adair, combined for less than 25 points having had our worst shooting day of the year. I wasn’t prepared for this early exit and the disappointment of another year not winning the championship stung bitterly but again left me with more resolve for the next year. And as we returned all the starters we came back and dominated the regular season even moreso, this time me and Adair averaging over 30 points a piece, all this with only a 32 minutes running clock. No small feat. This time we would advance to the semifinal round where we met up with the eventual champion. This team was stacked with good players and was no doubt better than us. But that certainly didn’t make me want to win any less. Again I did not play up to my best standards due to a combination of some pretty good Defense and a little bit of anxiety that was building each year not winning. However, the next year was to be my year. We came back with the nucleus of the team minus Adair but added two of the players from the team that had won the title the year before, including my friend Eric, who was the best player in Reily at this time. There was no way I could lose with this team. And I was almost right. Again in the semifinals my season would find it’s end when were forced to play 4 on 5 because people, including Eric, had other commitments. This at the time was definitely my most disappointing loss. In that semifinal game I was playing as good as I know that I can play. We went into halftime with a 35-30 lead in spite of being short a man. But fatigue proved to be too much down the stretch and the other team finally figured out how to use their advantage. I know in my heart, to this day, that if we would have just had a fifth man on the court we would have won the whole thing. After that year things changed. Only my friend Nick and I were left and we jumped ship to a pretty good team, which also had a good shot at winning everything.

My friend Duane Cousin was a ridiculous sharp shooter. His range extended well beyond N.B.A three point range. And he wasn’t bashful about letting em go either. I didn’t feel like we were the best team. We had to overcome Alexei who had played professionally overseas before blowing out his knee and choosing law school. This did not affect his jumper one bit. And the players he surrounded himself were no slouches either. But we played our best game and overcame their talent advantage to advance to the semifinals where, again, we would meet up with the eventual champion. A team led by one of the professors and a bunch of other thirty somethings, who I thought would pose no threat but had control of the game start to finish. With all the players from the team I had just played on leaving I was invited by the professor to join his team that had just beat me. I agreed with the stipulation that Nick would join me and the next year we would add two of Reily’s best players to an already championship team. The last year I had made the transition to point guard, having to play without Kibwe for the first time and having Duane alongside at 2. I consider point my natural position but it reduced my scoring greatly. A different challenge would be asked of me this year. I would have to transition into a half court point guard because the team lacked athleticism but made up for it in size and intelligence. It proved not to be a problem for me and we did very well running through my second undefeated season (although in one other season we had only lost one game by forfeit) In the playoffs we met a really tough team who I knew would give us trouble. They were just as physical and just as smart. It would be a grind for who wants it more. Most of the game we were down ten points or so and a ferocious charge at the end was necessary for us to overcome our game long deficit. We won a close, emotionally and physically draining game to advance again to the semis, which we had to play right after. With only a ten minute break, we lined up to play a far inferior team we would have beaten by 20 points with proper rest. But in spite of leading almost the whole game we faltered at the end and lost in overtime where we just ran out of gas. This had to be the second most disappointing loss because there was no doubt in my mind again that we were the best team. And circumstances prevented us from maximizing our potential. I was devastated. The following year. I was asked, by my friends to join a team I knew had limited potential to win.

I joined anyway, teaming up with Duane again. He never really found his niche in the offense and although he shot ok, you could sense he never felt comfortable playing alongside these guys who he only knew through me. We advanced to the third round off pure talent alone. Where we would lose to the team I had just left the year before. I wasn’t as disappointed but I was growing more discouraged. The next year I was asked by my friend George Kelly to join the men’s league version of the frat team he was on. They had won the men’s league and frat league convincingly the year before. I was excited about the prospect of joining this already proven team with a good team concept. Again my team marched through the regular season undefeated and untested. And again we would lose a game we should have won in the playoff round. I must admit I started to doubt myself. I thought maybe I’ll just never win a championship. Year after year I had played. Always putting myself in the right position, playing good ball, and nothing to show for it. I didn’t understand what I could possibly be doing wrong. So this year I jumped on with my guys again. Again we went through the regular season unscathed. The first round was no test for us ,and the second round was a forfeit. The third round we would meet the professors team again. We defeated them easily to advance to the semis. In the Semis we played one of the law school teams and had no problems with them. So finally, on to the championship. I thought things again would come to a screeching halt for me when I woke up drunk and stayed that way til about an hour before game time. We jumped out to an early lead on a pretty good team. Easily the best team we had played all year, and in my opinion the second best team in the league. They made a late charge and tied the game with only 23 seconds left. I brought the ball up court and ran about ten seconds off the clock before passing it to our best scorer, Jeff. He ran an additional ten seconds off the clock before driving towards the goal and settling for a pull up jump shot that hit the back of the rim and then bounced in of the backboard with only one second left. They inbounded the ball and my teammate, D-Lo intercepted it and we were the champs. I spent the rest of the day walking on clouds. I was at least as happy as I had been in many years.

I ran into my friends that night at their local hangout spot. I had agreed to play football with them earlier that year but because of scheduling conflicts I only ended up playing one game. They told me we had a playoff game early the next morning so I agreed to play. I had my reservations about going when at noon, after having celebrated with many spirits again the night before, I was called out of my bed to play football, my body already weary from the day before. But I toughed it out and very fortunately for my team might I add because we only had six players to show up and it’s a 7 on 7 game. I was forced into playing both sides of the ball. I had no problem doing this in my younger days but it would surely be a test today with the combination of early morning drunkedness and fatigue. Nevertheless when I hit the field the juices started going. On Defense I rushed the passer going full speed every play. And on offense I played receiver. I was placed in the slot which left me going over the middle a lot. When I realized that the middle was wide open and could be exploited I told our QB that I would stay wide and run strictly fly patterns forcing the safety to comeover and help because I would surely beat my man’s coverage. I was right too. I beat him everytime and the safety came over to help everytime leaving the middle wide open for ten – fifteen yard gains whenever we wanted them. And we marched down for two second half touchdowns without an incompletion, as we completely dominated the second half and held them scoreless on offense for the whole game. I didn’t know how to explain to my teammates I wouldn’t be available for next weeks game because I’d be in L.A. When to my surprise I found out we were to play again in 2 hours. And no less, we were to play legion of Doom. A team I had grown fearful of watching from the sidelines for years as teams I cheered for fell beneath it’s swift wrath. But today was a different day. We started off the first half the way we ended the last half offensively. Me again running decoy fly routes leaving the middle wide open, and us marching down methodically for touchdowns. Defensively we were to be handed no doubt our toughest test. The QB for Legion was a shifty, vet with a quick release. And my job would be to contain him. And that we did. We gave up only one touchdown and held off two late drives from them preserving our lead. That night I went out again this time determined not to drink, but for some reason this was the night everyone wanted to buy me free drinks so what was I to do? I woke the next morning and headed out to the football field still intoxicated. We played the bus-drivers, a formidable opponent who played very well. So well in fact they took a 12-6 lead on us with only 3 minutes in the game. But unphased we marched down using a key 40 yard completion to Patrick. And then Sean scrambled in for the game tying touchdown. We converted the extra point as Sean put the ball in the only place Patrick could get to it where no defender would have a chance at it. And we went up 1 point with a minute left. They tried to march downfield but we stopped them, knocking down a pass in the end zone as time expired. So we were in the championship game and by this point we had gained so much confidence nothing could stop us from reaching our goal. I was dog tired. Sprinting up and down the field on every possession, offensive and defensive with little sleep and too much alcohol. But no way was I coming up short now. We left it all on the field and dominated the game defensively. We scored one early touchdown and forced the QB into several first half interceptions. Then in the second half it was more of the same. We scored with 2 minutes left taking a 13-0 lead icing the game. And we ended it by intercepting a Hail Mary pass from the QB. Which marked not only his fifth interception of the game, but meant that because of extreme pressure on the QB from yours truly and stellar zone coverage we had managed to end EVERY one of their offensive possessions by intercepting them. And again we were victorious. This time I had managed to do it without even seeing it coming. I hadn’t thought ahead to playing football while basking in the glow of my basketball championship. But we pulled it off anyway and I ended the weekend the same way I started, victorious.

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