These are the moments I most enjoy about the sports that I’ve played. I’d love to hear what yours are, in these sports or others. Some of these are memories from childhood, or high school, or college. Some of these happened last week.
Basketball: I love basketball, it’s my first love, and today it’s second only to rugby for me. Even with rugby in the picture, its gameplay and flow is so unique to itself that every time I step on to the court I remember again why I love basketball so much.
What’s the one thing I like doing more than any other on the court? My offensive skills have always outstripped my defensive skills, and, as big as I am, my game is more about being smooth than it is about being a banger. That being said, there’s nothing I enjoy more on the basketball court than blocking some guy’s dunk.
Yes, it’s more satisfying than dunking in that same guy’s face. Perhaps because of the sense of relief. You stand to lose a lot of face when you step in front of a guy and challenge him at the rim; if you don’t block him, you’ve been posterized. When he tries to throw it down but your hand gets firmly in the way, maybe even gets pushed back on the rim, and then the ball pops out and everyone on the sideline’s got something to say…it’s a huge relief that only accentuates the exultation.
Rugby: in rugby, a tackled player must release the ball as soon as he’s tackled. There’s a split-second of vulnerability during that time in which an enterprising defender might be able to get his hands on the ball before the tacklee’s friends arrive to blow the defender off the ball. It is illegal for the tacklee to hold on to the ball once he’s been tackled, even if an opponent is trying to grab it.
Even more satisfying than straight-up stealing the ball is getting over the ball with every right to it, putting both hands on it, and trying to yank it out while your cheating victim holds on desperately to the ball. Guaranteed at least two of their guys will slam into you as hard as they can, but you hold on and wait for the ref to blow up the penalty for holding on to the ball.
Nothing’s more satisfying than that moment where you, the tacklee, and his teammates who’d been so desperately trying to rescue him, all stand up after the whistle. There’s just you and three or four of their guys who’d tried to get rid of you, and they couldn’t do it. Sorry, boys.
Volleyball: I never got enough training in this sport to be able to send a spike thundering straight down onto the 10-foot line. I imagine that would be very satisfying. What I can report to you is that going up for a loose ball above the net and having an opponent arrive at the same time sets one up for that greatest of moments: both players with two hands on the ball, with a split-second to wrestle it past the opponent’s hands and down to the floor.
If you come out victorious the ball usually hits the players chest and the net before it hits the ground, creating a shared moment in which your opponent knows he’s doomed but the point is not officially over yet. He might even be desperately falling to the ground in an attempt to get a hand under the ball, but you both know it’s too late. So satisfying.
This video isn’t of exactly that, but it includes a vital part of the experience.
Baseball: this one is obviously affected by the position I played. I only played baseball for two years in middle school. I had a huge strike zone, slapped the ball hard when I made contact but always as deep line drives up the middle, and found the motion of throwing a baseball to be unnatural. And I was pretty old to be playing for the first time. But I could catch and I was tall, so I was put at first base. And I enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed the possibility that there might, just maybe, be a pick-off play on.
The most satisfying thing in baseball was the moment after a runner had been picked off in a desperate scramble to get back to base. Watching the pitcher pump his fist while the runner has to pick himself up from being down in the dirt on his stomach was pretty great.
Hm…I’m starting to pick up a theme here. Is it healthy that I enjoy frustrating and humiliating my opponents?