Returning to school in the fall only meant one thing, the return of Basketball Torture Hour. It rotated through my eighth grade schedule like a specter.
I was already the runt. I remember tucking my late 70’s Sean Cassidy hair behind my ears and praying to god that I’d survive the hour without a bloody nose, ball induced black eye or some other life threatening calamity. It was like living through an hour-long episode of Mutual of Omaha’s ‘Wild Kingdom’ – and I was the lone antelope on a savanna filled with lions and flying orange rubber projectiles. I didn’t need any help from the optimistically autumn colors of my gym uniform, which made me look like I was literally on death’s doorstep.
Everything from dribbling the ball across the court to practicing trying to shoot a basket was an exercise in futility. By the time actually playing games came around, I’d made it abundantly clear to my classmates that I was not meant for the sport. Someone would pass me the ball, and I’d panic, the ball hitting my chest or my face. I’d let out a yelp similar to a girl being handed a live wriggling garter snake, batting at the orange ball like it was going to bite me. The sport resembled dodge ball more than anything you’ll see at an actual basketball game.
I have no idea what the planned lesson was supposed to be for Basketball Torture Hour, but for me at the time, it was perseverance.