Picking, rolling and gasping for air

My husband Vince and I were “just friends” when we started playing co-ed pickup basketball games almost 40 years ago and we relied on a simple, effective game plan. He roamed the perimeter and fired me passes under the hoop and I, recognizing the timidity of macho ballers reluctant to guard a girl, would put up easy bunny shots so wide open they’d be embarrassing to miss.

Back in 1984, that strategy worked like a charm and we made a formidable two-on-two team, formalized in 1986 and expanded with blue chip acquistions in 1987, 1989, 1992 and 1998.

We’ve been rolling along, employing vacrious versions of the same playbook, ever since.

This past weekend, we realized we needed to up our game.

Facing a 19-year old hotdog with a well-documented reliance on a single three-point shot from the deep, northeast corner of the court, and a West Coast visitor/UCLA grad who takes pride in his school’s 11 men’s basketball titles (and who, we were sure, had no idea what he was getting into), we strategized that the old pick-and-roll would score us an easy win.

I gave a little pep talk to my left hand, which has battled lifelong confidence issues, but I also winked at my right hand. No one was going to guard us anyway, I assured both appendages, so we’re good to go.

Boy, was I wrong.

The 19-year old stuck to me like glue and the LA visitor turned out to be an extremely effective player/coach.

“Don’t take that shot,” he’d say to his young teammate. “Wait for the easy one. There are easy ones out there.”


At one point Team Real Chili (that’d be my husband and me) held a 17-10 lead AND WE STILL LOST THE GAME. Quite frankly, we ran out of gas and our young opponents put together an 11-2 run to finish us off. We were tired, but they also played very, very well.

Gone are the days when a defender backs off an opponent just because he sniffs a little estrogen in the air. Thank you Title IX.

Of course, we’re going to need a rematch and I’m not just saying that to lure the LA visitor back to Wisconsin.

I’m saying it because that game was fun.

Joseph regularly cracks me up when I call out after him as he’s leaving to play basketball in the park with his friends, “Just let me know if you need a player. I’d be happy to fill in.” and he looks at me with horror.

“That is not gonna happen,” he says.

One of these days, though, I might just show up.

Ha ha.

Hornets flew out of the backboard, but that turned out to be the least of my concerns. I faced a formidable defender in Joseph, who showed no mercy on defense and an unrecognizable patience on offense.
I’m so open here I could pick daisies before I shot, but Vince is well covered by Joseph and Ed. (Also, that hydrangea bush gave our enthusiastic photographer and reluctant referee Katherine an excellent opportunity to demonstrate her Jimmy Stewart impression every time the ball landed in it. “Well this is a very interesting situation.”)
I got this shot off, but Joseph got his hand on several of them. I blame his coach/teammate Ed because that kid used to be a three-point specialist and now he’s all over the court. Rude.
I think it’s a safe bet Ed drove past me on this shot.
It was a hard-fought game but, sadly, Team Real Chili lost by a score of 21-19 after being up 17-10.
Post-game sweatiness. I’m wearing UCLA colors, but I’m Team Real Chili all the way. Also, I need a shower…and a nap.

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