Twenty-one and American

This post is dedicated to my Writers’ Group at Cafe Pugliese for helping me believe in my own writing. As Michelle put it so well, I need to eat a “big apple of confidence.” Thank you all!

Puey court, wed night @ 11ish

I remember when I was working with a trainer in university, doing speed drills and learning the foundation basics of basketball that I began to get the scope of the special vocabulary that comes with the sport.

One day, Patrick (my trainer) said to me “Okay, so you’re going to pitch the ball over here and shoot.” I wasn’t quite sure what ‘pitch’ meant, so I took a guess and catapulted the ball to the other end of the court. The look on my trainer’s face was priceless; I had no idea pitch meant to lightly toss the ball a meter or so in front of you, with a spin on it, to simulate a pass. It took me awhile to become familiar with all the terms of basketball, and now that I’m playing in a Spanish-speaking country, there is a whole new set of words (including cursing expressions).

On Wednesday, I headed to Puey court with my ball friend, Angel. We stepped onto the asphalt around 9pm and started warming up with some shooting and running around in the cool fall night air. It was just us, except for a family of five on the other end of the court. I started with various items of clothes on (my pants over my shorts, sweater, insulated jacket) and as I warmed up, I started shedding the layers.

After warming up, I challenged Angel to a game of twenty-one. In the middle of our 2nd game, El Muerto showed up on his bike. We continued playing with him for a while and I suggested we play American. For some reason this game never became popular here in Buenos Aires and I am aware that most ballers I meet don’t know how to play. I quickly explained the rules to Angel and El Muerto and they seemed pumped to give it a try. I proposed we play up to twenty-one; there was no whining nor a flinch of discord.

And so the game began. I was familiar with El Muerto’s style more or less, but it was the first time I’d played with Angel, so I was receptive to which was his predominant hand and where on the court he chose to shoot from. Twenty minutes into the game and the score was 12 (Angel), 13 (El Muerto), 6 (Me). I was doing my best to drive when I had energy, and shoot when tired. One of the great things about American is you notice how physical fatigue effects your mental toughness. It teaches you how to break through several bodies of defence without fear.

Going up for a rebound, Angel came in and boxed me out, ripping down the ball in the air. I chased him all the way to the 3-point line and stood firm, defending and giving him a hard time. I was putting all I could in my defense, by sticking my hand in front of his face and trying to steal the ball at any opportunity. One of my swats went colliding with his arm.

“That’s a foul, just so you know…”

He was right, and I knew that I still had a lot of dirty street ball habits. Trying to clean up, but I know that many of my basic ball skills I cemented on street courts, and they are hard to correct.

I continued defending, not allowing him to pass me.

“Okay, we haven’t all been training…”

“Well, that’s too bad. Why should I lay off?” a voice in my head popped. Nonetheless, I decided to loosen up a bit and gave him a bit more room. I realized that it was the body exhaustion that was getting to Angel. But this didn’t affect his shot or rebound accuracy. In the end, he won, with El Muerto close behind at 20, and me tailing way back, with 8 points.

There are still many questions I have about physical aggressiveness between men and women. Can it be equal? I’m interested in the physical as much as the mental (and emotional?). Ever since I started playing with on a woman’s team and becoming more experienced with basketball, I have begun to see more and more differences between the women’s and men’s game. But for some reason, this doesn’t discourage me at all.


10 responses to “Twenty-one and American

  1. Great post Cinthia!! Really enjoyed reading this, both times! Go munch that apple of confidence and enjoy it, girl!! Besos H

  2. Love the picture of the court (and your writing) and especially the voice in your head that said “Why should I lay off?”, especially after he hadn’t laid off when he boxed you out and ripped down the rebound. Reminds me of that saying, “nice guys finish last”. Success in anything other than social work seems to require the killer instinct. Play to win, right, bloody nose and all. That’s what I love about the game! Keep hooping it up, and use those elbows!

  3. Hey, this was great to read. Completely non-sporty myself, so it’s a nice change to read and get a feel for sports through your blog. Those questions about competition and how each sex handles it are timeless. Well done!!! This blog has a great feel about it, so don’t go knocking yourself down!

  4. Great post. Your writing rocks. Please, no more apologies.

    Of course, basketball was invented by a Canadian, so it is fitting you continue this tradition.

    I am already waiting for the next one. Hoop it up!!! haha

  5. I think the aggressiveness between men and women can be equal. The amount of agressiveness depends on skill levels of the different players playing the pickup game, men or women. For a guy, the mental part of ¨how hard should I play?¨ will go away after you score on him a few times.

    • Yes..definitely right on that one. The thing is… I’ve encountered guys who get all weird when I play aggressive, but it has nothing to do with me being a is just they like to play a more chill version of pickup. So I guess it is about making that distinction too..

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