Pick Up

Every morning I wake up to the sensation of pressurized pain near my tail bone, and since an over-aggressive session of throwing the football a few weeks ago, a burning pain on the inside of my right elbow. As I slide off the bed and my feet find the floor, I stiffly rise with alternating pain in both legs sometimes it’s in the ankles and at others the knees, and for a brief moment, I consider a truly horrible thought….maybe I can’t play today.

I don’t play professionally. Nobody, save myself, truly cares if I play or not, but in the confines of my mind and soul, I must play. I am 41 years old, and there is no alternative. I play pick up basketball Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and recently, started playing pick up soccer on Tuesday and Thursday. It is as vitale to my survival as the beating heart that pumps blood through my body.

Stepping on the court or field temporarily relieves me of the stresses of my life, and transports me to a place where I am measured not by the car I drive, how I dress, or anything other than how I play. It’s true of everyone who plays. Are you a self-centered jackass who argues every call? Do you defend, move the ball and yourself for the betterment of the team? Is there something dishonest or even dangerous in the way you compete? Or do you without reservation or complaint give all of yourself to the cause?

Between my two pick ups, I play with a few dozen people on a regular basis. I know most, but not all of their first names, and far less of their last, but my mind carries a player profile of each one of them. The course of my day can turn on which of them I play with, and the probability of success. By success I not only mean wins and losses, but the tangible sense of playing and functioning as a team. It is these moments when 5-10 people accept roles, produce a combined effort and function as one for an hour or two that pick up nirvana exists.

It is the reason why, by the time I get out of the shower, I know I will play.

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