Friday, December 08, 2006

Beware of Mennonite Basketball

I am living this year in possibly the only place on earth that has a Mennonite church basketball league. I eagerly signed up when our church needed people for their team, hoping my slowly deteriorating body would still be able to compete against what I had hoped would be stout farmers in bib overalls and long beards clumsily attempting to both dribble and walk at the same time. No such luck.

Our team's goal on most days is to not have our score doubled by the other team, which we often accomplish. We are mostly a bunch of short, slow guards who hang out around the 3 point line, hoping that the other team gets bored or distracted enough to leave us open. If that happens, we launch a heroic shot that often bounces off the top third of the backboard, which the other team then easily rebounds, passes the ball to all five players without touching the floor and finishes with a no-look reverse slam dunk. Basketball is apparently one of the many things Mennonites have figured out how to do pretty well since leaving prayer caps and plain clothes behind.

Last week we were down by 25 points or so with about 4 minutes left in the game, so I was understandably trying very hard not to let them score on a fast break, lest they go up by an insurmountable 27 points. I stepped in front of a guy who was considerably taller than me. By how much taller I can’t really say because I wasn't vertical for any meaningful length of time after we collided. But I have evidence that his elbows were about as high as my forehead, as you can see from the picture below of where they made contact with my face:

Yep, that's 12 stitches all together, 4 of them underneath. Luckily no concussion was detected by the many fine machines that go whir at the hospital where I spent the rest of the day. I was disappointed that I didn’t develop any superpowers as a result of the sharp blow to my head, aside from my usual ability to cause sports teams I am rooting for to lose (sorry Colts fans!). Also, I still have my uncanny ability to know what time it is without using a watch, which is useful, but not a very cool way to fight evil.

Everyone has told me afterward that Mennonites do tend to get out their aggression on basketball floors, soccer fields and sometimes during combined-church hymn sings. In the end, I’m guessing the guy who smacked me feels worse than I do. Mennonites have an especially hard time when they are the cause of distress to others.

I am fine now, but while lying bleeding on the basketball floor and eventually losing a battle with consciousness, I vowed not to ever play again in a sport where other people are involved. God must be trying to tell me something, since my injuries keep getting worse. I broke my ankle playing soccer last spring and a few years I ago I broke my shoulder play touch football. If I keep doing this, I will eventually be sent off the field in a casket.

And yet, physical activity is only interesting to me if I can weave in and out of other people who are trying to prevent me from getting somewhere. Simply jogging from one place to another without any danger of being knocked down or stolen from is simply not interesting enough to do. So if I keep my vow I will not likely play sports again.

Luckily, vows made under duress, especially after a blow to the head, are easy to rationalize away. I’ll probably play again, but I’ll be taking a bit of break for awhile. If any superpowers do develop, I hope they are at least useful on the basketball court.