I got belted with a swinging arm to the jaw playing Tuesday night social basketball in Redfern – I wrote about it – it got published by The Roar.
Click the link or read the unedited version below…
SOCIAL SPORT – SERIOUS BUSINESS?
I’ve always kept a pretty level head in the sporadic social sport competitions of my adult years, but being yelled at to “calm down mate!” by a guy who’d just collected me with a swinging arm to the jaw – in a game of basketball no less – was the straw that finally had me ranting like a loon.
I’m a hopeless ranter at the best of times – just ask the ladies who’ve torn me to shreds in more verbal stoushes than I’ve ever triumphed in – so combine that with being slightly dazed and the best I could come up with was “you just caught me with a swinging jaw [sic] to the jaw and you want me to calm down?” Granted, I’d smashed his knee pretty hard as we both contested the ball and ended up sprawled all over the court, and the situation of the match was intense pressure cooker stuff: four points in the contest, 30 seconds on the clock, and the extremely high stakes of Tuesday night social basketball supremacy at Redfern’s National Centre of Indigenous Excellence on the line.
In the end, we got the win. And winning is everything, right?
Apparently it is, given some of the white line fever I’ve witnessed over the years. Every game seems to feature at least one player who takes their social sport very seriously indeed – presumably because they never did quite crack that first grade squad they’d always been eyeing off in their youth and they’re yet to have children of their own to vicariously live through. Or, you know, they’re just angry at their lot in life and need to express some rage. I’m no psychologist, but it sounds plausible.
I’ve always played hard but fair, be it basketball, touch football, indoor volleyball, indoor cricket or indoor soccer. Well, there was that time in my first ever game of indoor soccer where I slide tackled a girl and got told that wasn’t entirely fair, but I was naïve to the nuances of the game. Hell, I figured if it was good enough for Kevin Muscat then it was good enough for me. (NB – aforementioned girl walked off the court and has no doubt enjoyed a happy and rewarding life since, while my slide tackling career ended then and there).
So where do these ultra-competitive and occasionally abusive (to opponents, match officials and even teammates) social sport psychopaths come from? At what stage does verbalising cross the line from playful sledging (and I’m as guilty as anyone, though I’m generally sledging myself in self-deprecating fashion) to outright douchebaggery?
When you’re giving someone a mouthful after their face has interrupted the free passage of your fist through the night air, there’s a fair chance you’ve crossed the line from competitive to complete tosser. The crowds at Redfern on a Tuesday aren’t far off what the Kings pull (joking NBL heavies, bring back the Bullets and all is forgiven), but this is several rungs below the minors and needs to be treated accordingly.
Unless your team jags its first ever win a couple of games into its second season. In that case, you should take whatever is thrown at you on the chin and savour the moment.