April 17, 2008

Searching For One Shining Moment

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I’ve always been a competitor. I was one of those guys who you could always find at the park, running his mouth, diving for loose balls and starting fights. I was the captain of my high school basketball team because Coach knew that I was one of those guys who battled in practice and games. Those were the days when I was actually nice and had respectable athleticism. Nowadays, my competition comes from XBox 360 and Take A Loss Tuesdays — I’ll explain later.
You would think with my competitive nature, I would have a pretty good amount of “big game” success … wrong.

For example, I play in this weekly beer pong tournament (Take A Loss Tuesdays) with some good friends and for every reason in the book, I haven’t been able to make it to the end of the brackets yet. Ten weeks in the game and I have been hit with cup differential rules, (yeah, its like that sometimes), bounced balls, accidentally knocked over cups and the infamous ball that lands in your drinking cup.
During one week, my partner and I were on our way to glory. We were hitting our stride, back to back shots and all that. We stood there about to take down one of the better teams, with one cup left. Turn by turn, we missed the final cup … short, long, left, right, in-and-out. And while we were choking, our opponents were coming back. I felt like Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts at the free throw line. I know I can hit the shot, but under the bright lights of beer pong stardom, I couldn’t shine. It got to the point where people there were feeling bad for us and cheering for me and distracting the other team. The house felt like Cameron Indoor Stadium. Eventually, I hit the cup. To no avail, the other team forced overtime and, of course, I lost. To this day, there is a piece of paper on the wall stating that “Harrison and BLANK can’t finish.”
That game drew me back to even more memories of losses in big games, the following ones come from high school and intramural basketball at Cornell. Enjoy at my expense …

Lawrence Woodmere Academy vs. Peekskill – New York State Federation Class A Finals
In my junior year of high school, I was stuck on the bench. There was just too much talent ahead of me. Everybody in my starting lineup is playing Division I ball now, and I thought we had the game. We played against a team that didn’t have as much noticeable talent as ours and the only player we keyed in on was Andy Rautins — who now suits up for Syracuse. So I went into the game thinking that it would be tough but I was almost certain we were going to win. I was even more confident in the fact that I wasn’t going to get on the floor. In such a big spot, with so many more experienced players in front of me, I even wondered why I practiced jumpers during warm-ups.
The game turned out to be a classic. Fade-away jumpers with the clock winding down, a multitude of cursing from both head coaches, families and friends waiting to get a hand on the referees after the game and more. It just so happened that the game went into double overtime and players fouled out left and right … Enter me. With the team down four and a minute on the clock, I was supposed to throw an inbounds pass to my friend after he came of a screen. As he came off the screen, he was double teamed. The dude who set the screen ran away and everybody else was still down the court. With no timeouts left, I tried a “Scottie Pippen” by throwing the ball off the opponents back and catching it. And with my luck, the guy had eyes behind his head and he magically turned around and caught the ball, even though he was face-guarding another player. Game over.

Freshman Intramural Basketball Quarterfinals
My team was down by three with under ten seconds left against a team we beat earlier in the season. Not being a great shooter, as soon as I caught the ball, I launched an NBA range 3-pointer and it went in. It wasn’t a New York State championship but it could have helped make up for some of it. And then, it happened. Thinking that we were still down in the game, my friend purposely fouled one of the other team’s players, thinking we were still down. And of course, they made the free throws. Game over.

Junior Intramural Basketball Finals
I switched teams this time around. This year, I suited up with past basketball players and I thought this was finally the year I was going to get some type of championship. Due to more free throw shooting woes, we were only up one with 10 seconds left. They came down the court and put up a shot and it missed.
I thought that was it. We had a 6-9, 6-5 and 6-4 frontline — there was no way we were not going to grab the rebound. Wrong. It was like a game of taps, because nobody wanted to grab the ball. And of course, with the timekeeping counting down, “3-2-1,” the ball landed right under the basket to the shortest person on the court. And as if me screaming, “No!” would make matters any better, he easily laid it up. Game over.
I still remember the half-court celebration.
But at least, I got Tuesdays. I always tell my roommate, you never lose in beer pong. Either you win or you drink more beer than the other person. It’s a win, win, I can’t lose right?