Our season is over.
The basketball Gods have once again denied my request. They, once again, have turned a deaf ear to my wishes. We made our exit in the playoffs, with the opposing team having a “twice to beat” advantage. They did not even need the second game. After grinding out a 2-3 win-loss slate, we reached the playoffs, but it wasn’t our time. We had to pack our bags and go home.
No one believed we will reach this far. After having two win-less seasons, everyone was looking at our team like we were a practice team. I was not even part of the team the first time we had a company-wide sports fest. I was sitting on the sidelines, telling myself that I could have made a difference if I was on the team. The team went on to lose every single game that year, every loss came with a double digit margin.
The year after (early 2012), I finally got invited to try out for the team. I was the shortest, but the team captain liked my hustle and passing enough to let me join the team.
I got my first taste of the atmosphere, and me being near-sighted, I was not really a threat offensively, as I struggled to even see the surrounding. I played purely with heart, and instinct. I was able to be a part of the regular rotation, partly too because we have a shortage of players. The year ended in a sour note, however, since I got injured by way of a wayward elbow meeting my forehead while I was trying to go for a steal. I had to get stitched up, and that ultimately ended that season for me, and my team. With only 8-9 players, we were down one man.
This year was a more optimistic season, however. We got a few more additions, and we were able to retain most of our core players from last year. We were so optimistic that we even talked about winning it all this year. I felt more confident too, because I got myself a pair of basketball glass frames. I was positive it would help my game.
Our seven core players from last year (including me) went on scrimmages early. I got my confidence higher since I was able to have the best off-season ever. I even scored a career-high 20 points in one of our games. To top it off, it was against a good team too. My confidence couldn’t have been higher. The team once again talked about the possibility of a championship.
Unfortunately, our practice stopped because of our schedules. Work finally caught up to us and we had to postpone practices and scrimmages until 2013 crept in.
We resumed practice a few weeks before this year’s sports fest. However, my skills faltered a bit as the stagnancy took effect. I lost my self-confidence and I became unsure. The team was worried about me getting injured again so they wanted me to ease up. I tried to adjust during practice, and things seemed okay.
Once the season started though, everything went differently. First, they reminded me to ease up on the hustle to avoid injury. I took that in mind, but I felt like I lost my identity. It affected me and my game so much that I became very nervous during games, thinking of staying away from another injury. It became a primary thought that I completely lost focus. I was no longer the same player. Without my niche, I was lost.
We lost our first two games, again by a huge margin. I felt useless and hopeless. The championship talks became talks of frustration. Talks of getting to the finals became discussions of what went wrong, and what could have been. That brought our record to two seasons without a win.
Our third game, however, was against another win-less team so our confidence was up for a bit. I was still advised by my teammates to be careful and not to go all out, so I was again unsure of what my role was supposed to be. There even came to a point where I got so caught up with thinking that I missed a request to sub in. On that game, I committed three turnovers, luckily not one resulted in an opponent’s score. Our team captain bailed us out though, and after two years without a win, it finally came. We got our first win, and it was a bitter-sweet feeling. Sweet because it has been a long while without our team winning that it felt like we already won a championship. Bitter because I, again, had to look for my role in the team.
We won another game afterwards but lost a close game to the top team. That was enough to get us in the Final Four, giving us a chance to face the top team again. We needed to beat them twice. I told myself that I need to go back to my old game so I can help my team more. I didn’t tell my teammates, fearing a negative reaction.
Earlier today, the first must win game was held. I was feeling good about my jump shots. I was able to hit most of my practice three-pointers. I was very optimistic, and I really thought we could win.
But when the game started, I found myself sitting on the bench for most of the game. When I finally got my chance, it was already in the second quarter. Staying on the bench for too long made me anxious and nervous. It was a tight game that I did not want to mess up. I became so worried about messing up that I felt my legs weaken. When it was my time to play, my legs felt like they did not even exist at all.
I still played aggressively, like I was always known for. Going after the opposing guard like he owed me a million dollars. But I still felt the jitters and my disappearing legs that my first two shots were bricks. The first was an air ball from the perimeter, and another one an ill advised tear drop that went “clank”.
I was asked to sit down. I begrudgingly agreed and watched the action from the sidelines, instead. But they said I was playing better that game, so I got a bit of my mojo back. I silently wished that we beat them.
Unfortunately, I did not get my wish. The opponents built a 10 point lead late in the third quarter. I still have not gone back in after my first few minutes. I got my legs back and was raring to go. I was itching to play.
I never got the call to suit up until the last minute. When I got up, I was able to get a quick 3 pointer, a steal, and another 3 pointer. I thought my second three pointer was enough to tie the game, but it was not. I looked up at the scoreboard and the truth just hit me in the face. It was too late. If only I had asked, or demanded to play, maybe we could have at least tied the game but then again, maybe not. Maybe it’s just me with my wishful thinking.
We have reached as far as we could have, with only 7 players consistently attending. The newcomers were not as committed as we wanted them to be, bringing us back to square one.
We talked about training early for next year’s season. I listened intently to the guys and thought that maybe I still have one more season left. I have been thinking of retiring lately. I have experienced too many heartbreaks in the sport that I am ready to hang my gloves up, or in this case, sneakers. I felt like the game is evolving so fast that I am not able to keep up anymore, with work and everything on my plate. The people are getting taller, and there is no longer a room for shorter guys like me to prosper. I love the game so much that even thinking of staying away from it means that I really feel that there’s no more room for me in it.
Up to this minute, I am tossing my own basketball up and down. I am looking at my shoes and trying to communicate with it.
“Do you think I should let go?”
I’m still waiting for the answer.