Saturday, February 2, 2008
Excerpt from "My Life Sucked..." by A. Dacosta Brathway
I only liked one sport- basketball! To hell with baseball! (I never got picked to play with my "so called" friends when they struck up a game.) Football? Oh hell no! I was not even trying to catch a concussion! If I wanted one of those I would have joined one of the neighborhood gangs. Basketball seemed to make the most sense for me. I dug the movement of the game. Running up and down the court, with a ball, trying to put it in a hoop with a torn up net had a certain appeal to me. When I started learning the game, of course, I sucked at it. But that did not deter me. I kept trying and trying and trying... I was always in the park playing pick up games. I always got picked! It had a lot to do with being tall for my age. I don't remember if my junior high school had a team... Wait a minute... Come to think of it, the school did have a team. I just didn't know when tryouts were. I made a promise to myself. I promised that I would play high school basketball! That was it! End of story! I was going to play./ Before I knew that I was going to be bussed out of the 'hood to go to high school, I was headed to the great Boys High School. Now Boys had a reputation for winning that rivaled some of the pro teams in the NBA at that time. Lenny Wilkins and Connie Hawkins went to Boys. There were more guys but I just cannot remember their names at the moment. When it was my time to go, a kid named Mel Davis was going to Boys. Mel was 6'5", about 240 pounds and had the reputation of being a mean SOB. Shit, Mel would dunk on his mother if she stood in his way to the basket. (He probably got his toughness from her which means she would have probably blocked his attempt!) There was no way I was going to make Boys basketball team. But as FATE and the Civil Rights Movement would have it, I got shipped out to Madison High School, which means I had a shot. When I got there I inquired about when tryouts were for varsity. I was told that freshman had to play jv ball. I have to say that I must have smoked a ton of weed before I got to high school because I do not remember playing jv basketball nor do I remember being disappointed if I did not play. However, by my junior year, I was good anough and tall enough to play varsity and that is an experience I will never forget! It wasn't playing for the team that I remember fondly... It was what happened off the court that gives me nightmares. I had the pleasure or curse to play for a "legendary" coach named Jamie Moskowitz, who sure as hell did not like me. I don't know what I did to draw his fire but he never let up on me. I don't know... Maybe it was my teenage alcoholism, which caused me to be late for practice most of the time that pissed him off. Or, maybe it was the fact that I never listened to him when he was trying to make a point. I don't know where he got that idea from... I hardly made eye contact with the man! I remember, on the way to a game on the school bus, we were passing over a bridge. There was a gigantic cemetary we were passing over and Coach asked me, loudly, how many people were dead in the cemetary? I did not answer right away, which gave him the impression that I was trying to count the head stones. He broke the silence by saying that they were all deads and he postscripted his comment by calling me a "dummy." Yeah...yeah, he called me a "dummy" in front of the whole team. Everyone laughed at me because they wanted to stay on the squad. That had to be it because that shit was not funny... to me! Somehow I managed to stay on the team. I wasn't the greatest player but I wasn't the worst either. And, I got to exact some revenge on my coach. I remember getting a plaque for being the best freethrow shooter on the team. That was my last laugh! Imagine the irony. A teenage, black, alcoholic basketball player, in a predominately white high school, becomes the best freethrow shooter. Got 'em!