Saturday, June 04, 2005

Return of the Pistol
Faithful readers may remember the time last year when I journeyed out to the OP to cheer on my friend the Pistol in his school’s student-teacher basketball game. Good times. This Friday, it was time for the sequel.

The Pistol kind of caught everybody by surprise last year, though, so this year’s game was going to be a little tougher.

For the past couple of months the Pistol insisted that he’d been training for the game. He was worried, he told me, that all the student players were just coming off of track season, and were going to run his ass out the gym. The Pistol talked a lot about getting in shape, but when pressed for details could only offer that he was “up to 3 pull-ups, now” and had really torn up the court against some co-eds and Asian dudes one afternoon at the LIU gym. Whenever I saw the guy he was smoking cigarettes, drinking Presidente, and eating Pringles.

From the start, the game was frustrating. The Students did a decent-enough job locking up the Pistol, the few 3s he got off didn’t drop, and every time he took it to the hole they shoved him out of bounds before he could get a shot off.

The Pistol hit the boards pretty hard and got off a couple of spectacular passes (promptly fumbled by his team-mates,) but for the most part couldn’t make a whole lot happen.

It wasn’t entirely his fault. Once again, the Teachers implemented the Mighty-Mites Rule when it came to playing time, and thus were often effectively playing with three or four on five. Yeah, sure, it’s funny when the five-foot tall Dean of Security runs around in circles and dribbles off his leg or chucks a shot over the backboard, but the dude doesn’t need to play half the game.

Worse than the Security dwarf and the other Teachers who knew they sucked and didn’t care, were the jack-asses from the PE department who didn’t know they sucked and ended up playing pivotal roles in the offense.

This short, blond-pompadour-ed Vinnie Barbarino guy from the PE department insisted on running the point despite the fact that he couldn’t dribble or shoot, and the Students were running a full-court press. This Vinnie Barbarino clown would just put his head down and bull his way forward, muttering Hail Mary’s to himself in desperate prayer that he could just make it over half-court. If he did actually get the ball across the time-line he’d either launch a long-range two-handed push-shot off the back iron or pass to his similarly coiffed friend, completely icing out the Pistol for the entire first half.

It wasn’t all frustration though. The Pistol got it going a little bit in the second half, hitting a couple of threes, knocking down a sweet turn-around jumper off the backboard, and finishing a couple of nice moves to the hole. Trained observers might also have noticed a friendly little trash-talking tete-a-tete between The Pistol and the Students’ best player, a solid, speedy point guard who lit up Vinnie Barbarino all night long. The Pistol had a great behind-the-back move on the end of a coast-to-coast play where he seemed to go simultaneously over, around, and through his rival, get fouled, then somehow hang in the air until he reached the other side of the basket where he flipped the reverse over his head off the backboard.

It was a beautiful move, but it didn’t drop. The and-one wasn’t meant to be. The crowd gasped then groaned, and the Pistol nailed his free throws. It was just that kind of night.

Finally as the clock wound down under two minutes, the Pistol curled around the top of the key on an inbounds play and cut straight to the basket. Barbarino tossed a less-than-perfect but adequate lob and the Pistol rose up for the alley-oop. He cocked back for the tomahawk, but the ball slipped through his fingers and he came down hard on the rim with both hands but no rock and landed. Once again the crowd let out a collective groan of anticipation turned to disappointment. The Pistol came up limping. His calf had cramped up just as he went to jump for the ‘oop.

Next year I’m in charge of his training. I’ll have the Pistol chopping down trees, painting fences and waxing floors, and chasing chickens down the beach at Coney Island. He’ll be ready.

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