Canada can be ice cold sometimes

“Pffft, this is it?! I think every team will be competitive! I have no fear of any of these teams; we’ll be just fine.”

This is what I gleefully exclaimed earlier in the day to an upcoming opponent, with whom I was on friendly terms. Famous last words.

A 57-point thrashing later at the hands of Team Triny, I was singing a different tune. I first started playing when I was 12 and fell in love instantly. My favorite childhood NBA team — the Orlando Magic — made the NBA finals my first year watching and since then I never missed a thing.

Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was my favorite player. I had posters of him in my room and, despite my hairdresser’s protest that it would never look like that, I got my hair cut like his.
Then, like most people, I hit my early 20s. I got into partying pretty hard, picked up a guitar, travelled around, ended up moving permanently from Australia to Canada, fell in love and recently got sober.

But it always felt like something in my life was missing. I didn’t miss drinking, or drugs, or cigarettes. It took me a while to figure out, but what I missed was basketball. So I began looking into leagues to join and last week I noticed the University of Manitoba was starting a new basketball league, the UMBL.

Now, no one I know is into basketball. There was no chance to start a team with friends, so I signed up alone and was put into a team with other people who didn’t have any basketball-loving friends either. Team 10, the free agent team. I waited anxiously all week and finally the day came, game day. It was the first time we met all met each other and it was my first game in eight years.

89-32 was the final score. Yep, they laid the smack down on us.

It’s a few hours later now and I’m sitting here writing a late night article, watching Malcolm in the Middle, with occasional vivid flashback of the brutality I witnessed firsthand earlier in the day.

As I write, every now and then I get a flash and see a black jersey grabbing a rebound, or blocking a shot. Or a figure that’s moving so fast it’s a blur. Team Triny were a fierce gang of terminators that operated like a well-oiled machine, just doing its job. Sweep the leg, Johnny, no mercy!

And in the midst of all this were several gold jerseys huffing and puffing, making slow movements like old people who are just entering a retirement home.
All dazed and confused, “Hang on, how long have things been like this for?  What’s going on here!? When can I go home?”

Sure, there were flashes of brilliance, a pass here or there, a defensive stop — we even kept it close for the first seven minutes or so. But then it all goes black. It felt like that one scene from the movie Deliverance. Yes, that scene.
It was just like that.

Except that instead of one poor victim, it was our whole team. And instead of hillbillies in the woods, it was Team Triny in a new basketball gym. I assure you, that’s the best reference for how our first game of the season went down.

Now we didn’t just lie down and take it. We tried to resist as much as we could, but we just got pounded and pounded into submission. So much so, that by the end of it we could barely walk right.

After the game, one of the league administrators — who was also a star player on Team Triny — approached me as I was overlooking the stat sheet, staring blankly at my feeble three-point total as if it were written in some weird alien language. He remembered my earlier comment to him and how I scoffed smugly at the level of talent I was witnessing.

“Now that’s an example of how good some teams are in this league,” he said gently.
“Yep,” I nodded wearily in agreement, “and it was a great example!”

We shook hands and I started walking towards the exit. Humble pie may have some bitter ingredients, but this time it actually tasted kind of sweet.