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Do NOT Play Basketball in Birkenstocks · 22 August 2008

Basketball and Birkenstocks do not go together. I learned this lesson the hard way. I know that it seems like a no-brainer, but maybe I have less than no brain.


I was going to play tennis with our youngest son, Thing 3. I thought to myself, “I ought to change my shoes in case Thing 1 comes out to play basketball.” I also thought, “Basketball and Birkenstocks do not go together.” Unfortunately, the devious part of my brain won out. It said, “But if you play basketball in Birkenstocks and lose, you can blame it on the shoes.” There is nothing like a good built-in excuse. Especially when it rhymes.


Playing tennis with a seven-year old is not something that needs athletic shoes. We had a good time hitting the ball back and forth above and into the net and even over the fence. Thing 3 was swinging for the fences and I was hitting the net. It was great fun. We had taken a basketball too so we did that next. Again, basketball with a seven-year old is not too strenuous. Birkenstocks suffice for that endeavor.


Then the big boys came. Thing 1 plays basketball at the neighborhood courts almost every nice day. Nowadays, he grabs a couple of friends to play instead of asking me to come along like when he was younger. I understand. His friends are his age and it would be much more fun to play with them than with me. Of course, with me along, they could play two-on-two. Which brings me back to the Birkenstock day.


Thing 3 was about ready to go home when his brother and friends showed up. I told him that he could either watch the big boys play or shoot on the other hoop. Being a youngster, he did both during the course of the games.


Now there is something about the bravado of teenage boys. First, they know that they can not lose. Second, they believe that they can be generous because they can not lose. That magnanimity put Thing 1 and I together on a team.


For those who do not play half-court playground basketball, the rules are a bit different than a five-on-five full-court game. Points are scored by one except beyond the three-point line. Three-pointers are two-pointers. The game is played to some designated odd number and you must win by two. The biggest difference though is that many play make-it-take-it. That means that when a team makes a point, they get the ball back instead of giving it to the other team. Of course, there can be other modifications on different playgrounds, but the rules are mostly those I have stated.


The first game was not that close. Thing 1 and I put his two friends down without much mercy. To be fair, I think that they were shocked that one of their friend’s dads could even hit a jump shot. That shock helped us to the easy victory. I did not even notice my feet until the game was over. I knew that there were blisters on the arches of my feet, but I dared not look. If I did, I would not have played the second game.


The second game was much closer. We were playing to fifteen and Thing 1 and I were behind. They had eleven points on some amazing three-point shooting (which were of course, worth two points) from way beyond the arc. We were close at about five points until Thing 1’s friend hit three in a row. During that run, I guarded him closer each time but he just moved back farther from the hoop and calmly hit another. At 11 to something, Thing 1 and I finally made a stop and came roaring back. Passing, layups, and short jumpers put us back into the game. The score was tied at thirteen. A three-point shot (still worth just two points) would win the game. We got the ball and calmly hit a shot. We just needed one more point. I could see the disbelief in my young opponent’s eyes as he saw the last point fall. Even with his deep shooting and their big early lead, they had lost. Thing 1 and I had prevailed with hustle and teamwork.


My feet were a mess or we might have played one more game. After all, win or lose, I just love to play. And I love to play with my kid. His friends may not have known it, but part of our advantage came from the fact that Thing 1 played on my church league basketball team. The knowledge of each other’s movements and abilities is quite an advantage in a team game. And his friends may not have realized that even with Birkenstocks on, I would still play as hard as I could.


Two weeks after the game, I was still paying for my lack of judgment. The blisters were gone but they were not quite healed. Looking back, I do not think that getting blisters from wearing Birkenstocks was worth having a built-in excuse for losing. Especially, since I still have a bit of my own bravado that says I will always win. I am sure that now I will always and forever listen to the side of my brain that says, “Birkenstocks and basketball do not go together.” At least until the next time that I am too lazy to change my shoes.

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Published 28 August 2008 in The RiverCurrentNews

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