When you play basketball outdoors, it is a totally different experience than playing in a gym. I spent the first half of my life playing outdoors almost every day: in bright sun, or freezing cold, or even rain. Many guys I knew, whose games were “all-world” outdoors, couldn’t transfer that brilliance to the insides of gyms. Every new test separates people into levels, and some of us don’t make it.
I wasn’t anything special, even among young guys who you might see hooping every day or every weekend. Nevertheless, it wasn’t unusual to see me out here, early in the morning by myself, practicing, running, working on shots.
I did it because I loved doing it; I didn’t need any other reason. I dreamed of playing in the NBA, not because I wanted to be a “star”, but because I wanted to be that good. There was no coach barking at me, no trainer giving me fitness tips: there was just me, or me and my boys, out running around for as long as we could hold the court, or sitting to the side, bouncing balls, waiting for our turn.
Once, during a game, I had my legs cut out from under me and I fell on my head on the asphalt; my teammates weren’t too happy with the guy who did it. He was a newcomer to the court, and he disrespected the culture; it didn’t go well for him. The game is bigger than the players, and the culture of the game, in many ways, is the game.
Which is how life works, of course.
At whatever human beings do, there are degrees of achievement, where some people are so far beyond others as to be on a different level. Within that level, there are other levels; the all-stars, the champions. (4)
At whatever human beings do, there are those working to get better at it: the beginners, the learners, the perfectionists, the dreamers. (3)
At whatever human beings do, there are those who do it simply because they love doing it. (2)
At whatever human beings do, there is a culture that comes with it, and that has to be understood and respected. (1)
There is (1) the game itself, then (2) the love of the game, then (3) the striving to perfect one’s own game, and finally (4) one’s placement into levels within the game. This happens over and over in life, as many types of human interaction work in a very similar way.
The world of blogging is both a modern and a timeless thing: modern in its technological immediacy, timeless in being a mode for almost every form of human communication. Passions to live by and information to make decisions with: these are the products of the blogging world.
I came to love the world of blogging primarily through a number of writers whose work entertained me, or made me think, or in some other way spoke to me.
I’ve written a ridiculous amount these last three years (almost 7,000 separate posts, mostly of poetry) attempting not only to express myself, but to get better at it.
In terms of levels, I realize I am an obscure and middling sort of blogger; so far, my largest strength appears to be my unwillingness to give up on writing. I’ve never been “discovered” or “freshly pressed”, I’ve won no awards, been invited to no conferences or banquets, and have developed a knack, in my essays, of making people angry — a thing I am most decidedly trying not to do. So why do I bother?
I’m not entirely sure, but, I think part of it is that a large number of us who blog, men and women, are just “guys who hoop” — we’re out here, playing on the local court, working on our game, and loving and respecting the game. We’re not NBA, and we’re certainly not all-stars — though some reading this may be — but we’re part of the game, a vital part.
So, all of my respect to you today: you, who are out there, trying to say something with your blog; trying to find new ways to express yourself to the world, or maybe change it. To you at the highest levels: I will continue to read and be inspired by many of you. To you who aren’t at the highest levels, I will continue to read and be inspired by many of you, as well.
Remember: if there is nothing in life that we do just because we love doing it, there is little in life worth doing.
(“Guys Who Hoop” – July 2nd, 2017)