Friday night after practise, we had a team outing. We went to one of the girl’s houses and gathered in her kitchen, eating burgers and chips, while watching Show Match. I would have preferred anything else, but it seemed that pretty much everyone was interested in gossiping about the outcomes of certain dancers.
Once beer and wine were freely circulating in everyone’s blood streams, conversation began to get even more ridiculous and at one point I heard my name from across the table.
I looked over and for some reason everyone went silent:
“So in Canada…”
I was waiting for some monumental question about culture or food or government. Instead, I got this:
“How do you say penis?”
My teammates recognize my extranjera ways, but I am more of a strange creature off the court than on it. Basketball is our common language. I remember an old trainer I had said that the basketball gods rein down the same laws for everyone. But whenever we have these team outings off the court, it is like we get to know each other in a different light.
On another occasion (a birthday party) a sing-a-song battle game got started up. I hadn’t been familiar with this game until that moment: two teams take turns singing a few lines of any song to each other. When one team finishes, the other team has to start up a new song using the last letter sound that was sung. It can be difficult with certain letters, but overall it was fun. Fun for me to watch and listen because the only songs I know in Spanish by heart are the two my mom used to sing to me as a baby. After that, my mind goes fuzzy. One girl kept nudging me, “Common, you must know some song.” Nothing important came to mind and it was one of those moments where the cultural gap became so obvious.
These things don’t happen usually on the court. Only occasionally I see emotional behaviour that I wonder would happen in other countries. Like my coach kicking the ball out of anger so that it hits the ceiling of the court. Or one of my teammates getting so upset that she takes off her jersey and goes and cries in a corner. We aren’t exactly playing for the top position and I’m confused about the purpose behind so much emotion. I recognize it as something Argentine, especially when it comes to sports, and I just accept it.
Apart from all the emotion, only recently have we been working together as a team and enjoying it.
On Saturday, we had a good home game against Quilmes. We were actually playing like a team: passing the ball, making direct layups for the hoop and picking up fouls in the process. In the final quarter, coach was sitting down on the other end of the bench and yelled across seven other players to me: “Cinthia!”
I stood up, whipped off my t-shirt, leaving only my jersey and walked down to the score table, passing the bench. I received hand touches, pats on the butt and back.
I don’t know how long I was on the court for. It must have been almost ten minutes (the longest I’ve ever been on a game for) and heaven. I still think a part of me is quite nervous while in real games; it is a completely different energy than practise and I’m not as calm as I’d want to be. However, I went for the ball, passed alright, and occupied the places where I should more or less be in. I loved every second of it and when it was all over, I couldn’t help but walk back to the bench with a huge grin on my face.
Even though we had lost the game, I received positive pats and smiles. On the way out, I accidentally hugged my coach out of pure joy. I think this is a culture similarity that I can agree on expressing.