The distance between perception and reality, as it pertains to basketball

For the most part, we’re blissfully unaware of the distance between our perceived abilities and our actual skills.

Example: I have spent the last four months practicing post moves, shooting jumpers, flipping in lay-ups and juke-ing invisible defenders in an effort to get better at basketball. At times, I’d be completely on fire, hitting nearly everything and – in the process – inflating my ego. From an athletic standpoint, I figured I was okay – after all, I worked with the elliptical at the fitness center from time to time.

That in mind, I organized a 1-on-1 tournament. I was in no way expecting to win. I knew my limits. I would place third, maybe. Fourth if it was a bad day. But I’d be in the running.

After all, it’s my court. Those were my jumpers. That was my sweet spot.

Only three people played. We played each other to 11.

Combined, I lost 22-1.

My drive turned into a wheezing heap of clumsiness, my jumper into a floppy armed heave. I jammed my finger on a rebound early on and it now swells blue and purple as if reminding me that I couldn’t even get THAT fundamental right. I could feel my opponents easing off. I could feel their pity. And I still couldn’t manage to keep up.

Turns out that I’m not quite where I thought I was. Turns out, also, that the inflated sense of ability was utterly crushed by the agonizing reality of the situation: I was not very good at basketball, and I probably never have been. Despite my consistency when it comes to easy 12-foot unguarded jumpers, I couldn’t quite make the cut when it came to actual 1-on-1 play.

The funny thing: it wasn’t demoralizing. It was refreshing, actually. I no longer need to worry about whether or not I’m good.

I’m not. And that’s a weight off of my shoulders.

I was right about one thing, though.

I DID get third place.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 21st, 2009