I Don’t Know How to Play Basketball Anymore.

I shot some hoops with my daughter recently. I had no clue that she had ever shot a basketball. She’s 8. Did I mention we were using a volleyball instead of a basketball? We were 20 minutes early to volleyball camp and just goofing around. I really sucked. In my mind, it felt like I could do it easily… but it was just a bunch of malfunctioning muscle memory and false dad pride. Like Marsellus Wallace said “This business is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherfuckers. Motherfuckers who thought their ass would age like fine wine.”

My basketball skills have gone the way of the dodo, just another “incomplete” on the report card of life for this jack-of-all-trades master of none.  Add this to the list of hobbies I gave up on for no good reason…along with drawing, baseball cards, skateboards, Nintendo, guitar, Stephen King books, Twitter feuds, exercise bike, Elvis movies (but only the ones between 1961 and 1965) and most recently… craft beer. Yep, it is day 300 of no beer for this gato, so I thought I’d post on ye olde booze blog for the first time in 8 months.

This erosion of skill and will for Dr. Naismith’s game wasn’t always like this. From the age of 12 to the age of 16, I practically lived in the basketball gym at the Winona, MN YMCA. It’s literally all I did. Bouncing around the old volleyball on the Chaska High School basketball court reminded me of the fact that I used to do this a hell of a lot the last time I was this sober.

When you reach the ripe old age of 17 and are blessed by social anxiety with the power of 1,000 suns…well….let’s just say beer came along at a very opportune time in my life. But before that, I only lived for pick-up basketball. I’d play with anybody. High school basketball stars, 60-year-old fat hairy guys, 4th and 5th graders who barely knew how to dribble, my dad, Ex-football playing meatheads, hobos, hippies, spastic dorksteins, 60-year-old fat hairy guys who tried to pat me on the ass when I shot a layup, 2 of the 3 black guys who lived in Winona, a gym attendant named “Fearless Earless”…you name it…I didn’t care.

If I was playing ball with guys older than me who continuously swished 3s in my face, I would run at them full speed and pretend to head butt them in the balls. If I was playing with the youngsters I would find the kid who was the biggest ball hog and either stuff the shit out of him (“to teach him a lesson”) or hold onto his jersey while I passed the ball to the kid with the least amount of talent for a wide-open layup. In my teens, the basketball courts of the YMCA and the local rec centers were the only locations on earth where I had a pinch of self-esteem or a tiny crumb of self-confidence.

I read back my first 3 blog posts today. They are finely curated pieces of depression that feel like 40 tons of wet sludge to me now. They are towering monuments to self-immolation that feel like moldy tombstone markers. Maybe it’s the 10 months of sobriety or perhaps it’s just my anti-depressants working properly for the first time in 7 years…but why did things feel so dramatic? Why is everyone around me so dramatic? Has it always been this way? Am I such a swirling tornado of angst that everyone feels like they have to behave this way around me to keep my nuttiness at bay? There are definitely more questions than answers these days since I stopped numbing myself for fun.

Yesterday I had my first “trigger” moment in months. I was filling a giant cooler with ice and beer for a barbeque I was having for a family who had traveled in from jolly old England. I used to have these moments often in the first few months of my “sober journey”, but now they rarely flare up at all. The dreams have even stopped. I used to dream at least once a week about sitting in the hot sun cooling off with a frosty can of beer. Perhaps that is why I had a fleeting moment where I seriously contemplated slamming a can of Old Style yesterday (it was hot as fuck). Then I thought, this might be a neat sensation for the first 10-15 seconds…but it would probably taste like the skunky horse urine that it is. I would buzz for about 6 minutes and then be filled with mounds of angst and regret. I didn’t do it. I chickened out. I know I would have got really fucked up yesterday had I done it.

I guess that last paragraph was kind of dramatic. I’m trying to stop that. One thing I’ve noticed is that the longer I go without booze, the less I seem to want to fight people. Not fisticuffs in the traditional sense, just the neverending urge to debate people until I am blue in the face. Sometimes I even up and leave negative situations without saying a word. I have never felt that way in my life. I’ve always been an unrelenting, unabashed asshole. Like Denis Leary said, I was the guy walking around in the summer saying “how about this heat?”  Look, I’m not saying quitting the booze will fix a career asshole…I have just started subtlety editing myself here and there. I haven’t done this on purpose, it just sort of happens. Everyone needs a good editor. Just like a movie. The gag reel outtakes might be funny as shit, but you don’t leave them all in there if you want to be taken seriously. You pick your spots.

I went to Tarantino’s new film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” the other day. I went with an interesting gang of hardcore cinephile doofuses…including the jolly Englishman and my best friend C.S. My best pal and I exchanged knowing glances when Brad Pitt’s character and Leo DiCaprio’s character go off together for one last “blind drunk” before all hell breaks loose (let’s just say we’ve had that moment together more than a few times in the last 25 years).

A few critics and SJW’s have noted how Tarantino’s film seems to be some sort of last gasp extinction burst for the fabled “misogynist angry middle-aged male” …I disagree. I look at this film the same way I look at my favorite TV show Mad Men. It is QT looking through the lens of the past to show how it wasn’t much different than the present. Yes, in QT’s fantasyland the idealistic upstarts get their comeuppance at the hands of some surly honky conservative types in a vulgar display of power. However, my take is more of the ilk that modern-day conservatives (the Boomers) are so oppressively evil that the younger generation (the Millenials) will have to get their hands dirty in order to take the place of their masters.

QT is predicting a storm coming, just like it did 50 years ago with the Tate murders and the “death of the hippie dream”. QT is not a Boomer. QT is the nihilistic Gen Xer using our own hideous id against us. Think about it, is the “Tarantino Universe” really that much different than our own? What with its cooler than cool characters constantly spouting pop culture soliloquies (Twitter) while waiting for the next ambush of uncompromising violence (Sandy Hook, Vegas, Columbine, The Bataclan, skyrocketing middle-age suicide, white nationalist cuckoos, etc. etc.).

So how does all this heady shit tie into a sad sack booze blog? Well, we live in this “have a beer and calm down pussy” society to such a degree that it has not only become completely ingrained in us…but it is now seen as harmless or even “cute”. The thing about our barbeque yesterday that scared me the most wasn’t my split-second “trigger” of want for a silo of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Though the funniest part of the afternoon was the Londoner regaling us with a story of the first time he tried PBR and how he thought it was terrible. He couldn’t understand how the beer that Dennis Hopper loved in Blue Velvet could be bad. We had to explain to him that in the 80s and 90s PBR was the shittiest midwestern beer you could drink this side of Blatz and that was the reason why it was so funny in the movie (Heineken? FUCK THAT SHIT!). It wasn’t until a gaggle of Millenial hipsters made it ironically cool that the beer was anything more than something you drank in a cornfield the summer after senior year. No the scariest thing for me about our little barbeque was my 5-year-old son sitting around with the adults in a circle of folding chairs in the garage. He walked back and forth from the cooler getting LaCroix bubble waters and pretended to drink beer with everyone. A few pointed this out as adorable. After 300 days sober, I found it to be as batshit crazy as the last 20 minutes of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

This post began about basketball, and I feel it should end that way too. Anyone reading this who is newly sober should be left with the cheesetastic refrain of “it gets better”. No, you’re not going to be what you were before, you are still going to suck in a multitude of ways. However, you could have a slightly different perspective on life if you get to 300 days off the sauce. It will probably be very different for each of you. For me, it is the realization that life is nothing more than a pickup basketball game. You don’t always get to choose who you’re playing with, but if you don’t try and make them all better it won’t be any fun at all.

hoop