Hittin’ the floor(boards)

In Sports /

Sports editor Rob Moysey hits the court to see if he’s got what it takes to
make the Ryerson men’s basketball team. Turns out, he doesn’t

There’s a tradition we have here at the Eyeopener: every year the sports editor tries out for a bunch of teams to get to know the players and coaches. But more importantly, they make a complete and utter fool of themselves and put it into print.

Having played basketball for a good portion of my young life, I decided I would tryout for the team and be the first sports editor in Eyeopener history to actually make it. I averaged 30 points a game playing in Mississauga house league. I was ready for the big time — or so I thought.

Here’s a little disclosure about my athletic abilities. I’m a 6-foottall wiry white boy with no muscles and a lingering case of asthma. I haven’t set foot in a gym since first-year and my half-baked plans to eat healthy are inevitably spoiled by a Popeye’s craving. Perusing through my closet, I plunge my arm into the thick of material and decide to rock my Mississauga Monarchs jersey from 11th grade. They say to dress for the job you want, so I felt I was looking rather svelte, at least in basketball terms.

I make it to the Upper Gym and hear the symphony of shoes squeaking and squealing on the floorboards, the thudding of basketballs rapping the backboards, the swishing of mesh swaying with each scored basket. I feel good.

Then I walk in. Virtually everyone there is bigger, taller, faster, and stronger than me, not to mention more talented. My mojo shrinks like a t-shirt in the wash. I had gravely underestimated my competition; now I was going to pay for it.

Everyone is shooting around, but I don’t dare touch a basketball. They all seem like kryptonite to me now. Luckily I don’t have time to faint because coach Rana calls everyone to center court. Everyone forms a semi-circle around him, and I struggle to peek over the mass of broad shoulders.

We start with a series of warm-up drills to limber up before getting down to business. Hip flexes, toe touches, leg stretches — the works. By the end of it I’m embarrassed to find that I’m already sweating.

We move onto a simple enough drill: dribble the ball from baseline to baseline and finish with a layup. The hitch: you can only dribble the ball four times. The problem: I can barely do it in five.

On my third attempt, I manage to hurl myself close enough to the net to bank the ball off the boards and in. Two points for the basket, but minus two for the circus routine.

Next is the three-man-weave, where three players line up along the baseline and pass the ball to each other while shifting positions. I’m surprised to find that I’m not fast enough to keep up with the other guys. So much for my track and field accomplishments.

Then came the 17’s – the dreaded, miserable, soulsucking 17’s, otherwise known as suicides. We’re instructed to line up along the sidelines and sprint the width of the court 17 times. With one foot planted on the sideline, I suddenly have visions of my summer days sitting on the couch covered in chip crumbs watching Seinfeld reruns.

Right off the bat I’m trailing the pack, but I’m focused on one thing only: not being that one guy with the ignoble fate of dropping out. It’s time to nut up or shut up. We’re supposed to call out what lap we’re on each time we touch the sidelines, but by lap nine I’m already panting too heavily to say a word.

With each passing moment I’m barely defying my body’s urgings to assume the fetal position, but I plunder onward, barely sputtering to the finish line. I throw myself onto the bleachers like a heap of dirty laundry, hardly able to keep my eyelids open from the avalanche of sweat racing down my forehead. I feel like a weary climber who’s just conquered Mount Everest. I made it. It’s finally over.

But it’s not over — far from it. That was just the first set, with two more to go. Somewhere inside of me, the little basketball-loving boy quietly crawls into a dark corner and dies. I don’t even make it halfway through the set before collapsing onto the bleachers once again. Thank goodness they’re padded.

I’m not the only one who drops out though — two others join me on the bleachers. As I suck down my Gatorade like a starving infant grappling at its mother’s teat, Rana looks right at me and says, “How can you expect to make the team if you can’t even do 17’s?”

I put my head down in shame. I’ve failed him, myself, and every Eyeopener sports editor past and present who’s ever tried out for a team. Dejected, I turn to the guy beside me. Turns out, he was his high school athlete of the year. He worked all summer and didn’t have time to maintain his cardio. “

I tell ya, I must’ve hit my peak physical fitness at age thirteen,” I joke.

He clearly isn’t in the mood for it.

“Man, I’m just hurting right now…” he trails off. Before I have a chance to reply, Rana looks over at us. “Guys, if you’re out, you’re done. You can leave.”

That’s a polite way of saying get out of here.

I look up at the clock and see that it’s 2:25. Not counting the 10-minute pre-stretch warm up, I lasted the grand total of 15 minutes. As I collect my things and walk out the doors, I see the next drill was dunking. That makes me laugh in spite of myself.

Back at the office, I endure a little good-natured ribbing. Okay, so maybe I won’t be the first sports editor to make the team, but at least I have one hell of a funny story to tell. And that in itself is a victory of sorts.

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