I’ve written about my basketball playing already. I’ve shared about how I’m “Semi-Pro”. I’ve tried my best to not spout off about how I’m getting about 50% of my team’s points each game (oops). I would like to share something that I’ve observed: basketball is a great social leveller.
I know that when I began playing basketball I appreciated the new social dynamic I experienced. I love how the court has its own rules of fairness and social stratification. In time you learn who are solid players, who has played on team and who has just played by themselves on a backyard or school court. You start to adjust the time you arrive at the court to best maximize who you’ll be playing with…or against. You are picked to teams based on how well you play – and that’s usually it.
Not only has this performance dynamic been exciting, I feel that I’ve benefited socially on the court because – in one of the few social spaces I live in – I am not seen as the minister. Some of the guys know what I do for a living but most do not. I am seen as a good dude, a strong player, and the guy without an outside shot but a deceptive left hook. Nobody bats an eye when I let out an f-bomb after a missed shot. Guys back me up when give a hard shoulder to the douchebag who keeps elbowing me in the back. We all have the same pleasure of sharing sideways glances at the aerobics class next door filled to capacity with scantily clad women working up a sweat. I get to be just one of the guys – in a way that’s unique from my softball team and my drop-in outreach games.
I play ball at lunch hour with a group of dudes ranging from their late 20’s to mid-50’s. These guys are great. We typically have about the same 15 guys who all rush down get the coveted “first 12” spots to guarantee they are playing that noon. We get to know each other’s tendencies, who works well with each other and who is the odd man out. My assumption has been that basically everyone that comes down to this game is some type of professional who works downtown – why else would they be downtown at noon? I’ve been surprised that a couple guys drive in from outside downtown in order to play but they are all still typically engineers or lawyers or accountants.
Last week though I was completely shocked. One of our regular guys – I’d say the dude who takes a leadership role in organizing us and correcting guys who aren’t jiving with our game ethic – was late heading out of the Y. I thought he was some type of manager in an oil & gas company (as 90% of the guys are) but I was wrong. He was heading out with his hardhat, overalls and work gear to head to a labourer/construction job. He looks completely “corporate” on the court but he’s a blue collar guy who slips down on his lunch break to play. It was made more surreal because exiting the Y – in the opposite direction – was another dude we play with who was wearing a suit and watch that probably cost more than the vehicle I’m driving.
I’m not the only one that gets to slip under the radar a bit and drop all of the trappings of our social construct. There are a lot of us that just get to enjoy the simplicity of friends, teamwork and a leather ball on the hard-court.