I Be Doggin’ Rory Sparrow

Street Ball I was driving in town recently and passed by one of the public basketball courts. Actually, this was a set of four courts and several were occupied by pick-up games. Since pick-up ball is typically half court, there were probably about six games going on, with the last two halves filled with younger kids shooting around. This tableau brought back a flood of memories for me.

When I was a kid, I had no conception of street ball, the colloquial term for pick-up basketball in urban areas. I played primarily with my brother, Tim. While he was only a year older than me, he was always seven inches taller. As you can probably guess, this made it extremely difficult to get shots off. Oh, I had a couple of moves, but having no left hand made me pretty easy to defend. I did develop a pretty good hook shot, but was later to find that this was only used by awful white kids and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I was, however, able to learn a valuable lesson on defense while playing Tim. Like many of the bigger white kids, Tim’s major offensive asset was his ass. He would back into the lane, pushing everyone out of the way, and then turn around and shoot a three footer.

My education into the game came quite late. I didn’t really understand basketball, at least as a player, until college. I started hanging out with a group of black fellows who kindly invited me to their trips to the court. Instantly, I exposed myself to be a rube at the game, but many of them took me on as a project and started showing me what to do and not to do. I also worked on my upper body strength so I would be releasing the ball from a higher point. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to develop a decent shot.

Two things were critical in my development. I wanted to learn and I was madly competitive when it came to sports. I want to tread lightly here as I have a daughter who is a sociologist and she is constantly throwing gender issues in my face. Even though I feel that I am one of the “good guys” as a reasonably gender neutral dad, she slaps most of my arguments away like Tim did to my attempts at youthful jump shots.

I just love the connection you get with sports, and street ball provides the most and best opportunities for it. Here are some of the best aspects of the game:

I got next – That’s the phrase used to take on the team on the court who wins the current game. The rush comes when that game ends and you and your boys slowly strut onto the court. Our chests are out and we are looking for eye contact with the guy on the other team that we are going to stick. That’s right, I can stick him. That motherf****r can’t stick me. Men rarely feel so strong.

The finger point – When you set up a teammate’s bucket with a great pass, it is customary for the scorer to make eye contact with you while you are both running back up the court for defense. Patrick Ewing was very good about doing this. There are few greater feelings of affirmation. Receiving the point is even better than giving the point. Where else does this action have meaning? If you see someone doing this at the office, they are full of shit. Save the weak high-five for the workplace.

Great plays – True story. I was playing a full-court game at a park in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I was already a college professor and was playing with students. I’m playing defense at the foul line and my guy is at the top of the key, just out of normal shooting range. One of his teammates is lagging back at the other foul line taking a breather. My guy chucks it up from three-point range and follows his shot. The shot hits the back of the iron and rockets over all of our heads toward mid-court. I take off after it as the guy lagging back comes running toward it. Right at the mid-court circle, we both reach for the bouncing ball while racing toward one another. I get a piece first and shove the ball forward. The ball bounces right between the other guy’s legs as I run past him. I pick up the bounce and finger roll a lay-up over the front of the rim without breaking stride. Since it was full court, everyone else there was watching and the crowd went nuts. This was my best play ever and it was all a series of random accidents.

Knowing ya’ boy’s game – Obviously, it is common to play with friends. The better you know their game, the better you can perform. My best friend Dwight is a poor shooter. This shouldn’t be a liability in street ball, but I know that he is rarely going to put the ball up. Therefore, I don’t waste effort trying to set him up or setting picks for him, rather I work to get open. Also, Dwight plays the most smothering defense that I’ve ever seen. In the handful of times we were on opposing teams and he stuck me, it was like I was out for a jog. I NEVER touched the ball.

Knowing your own game – I was competent at a lot of stuff, but great at none. Still, one skill I retained from playing my brother was the ability to defend a big man. I used my body to keep them out of the paint and had good anticipation for reach around steals. I also had a good feel for attacking the ball before they got it over their head to shoot.

It is not all roses, however, particularly the aroma. There are also quite a few pretty annoying things about street ball.

The ref – There are no referees in street ball and everyone is typically on the same page regarding foul calls…they don’t exist. If you are fouled, the protocol is to utter the word “ball”. This results in your team retaining possession. I don’t recall EVER using the term. In street ball, you are occasionally fouled. Your message should be delivered through eye contact and should infer the following: “I’m not calling that but I will remember it next time you try to bring your sorry-ass shit down the lane on me.”

The prima donna – This is the exception to the previous rule. There’s occasionally one asshole who calls “ball” every time he misses a shot…every time. You can typically pick him out in advance. He has the most expensive sneakers and the most meticulous afro. His outfit may even match. Make your fouls count on this guy.

Not-so-great plays – A guy dunked on me once…not over me, but ON me. Again, I was playing with students. I’m taking the ball out and this kid defending the inbound keeps slapping the ball out of my hands while I’m still out of bounds. Twice was enough for me. On the third attempt, I held the ball over my head and drove it like a soccer throw-in right into his chest. After a brief scrum where we were pulled apart, the game continued. On their next trip down the court, the guy drives the lane and goes up while stepping on my hip to dunk on me. I was the butt of many oohs and ahs.

Trash talkers – Some guys feel the need to run their mouth. I’m not a practitioner nor do I mind much, especially when it’s funny stuff. The worst are the braggarts. I played with this guy once. We were shooting around and he mentions that he played in a park in Paterson, New Jersey. Nobody asked him, so you knew he was a yakker. He said Rory Sparrow was there and played in their game. Rory Sparrow was a star at Eastside High and later at Villanova for Rollie Massimino. He later played a dozen years in the NBA. Most people are aware that NBA quality players a much better than the average street baller, but few are aware of how much better they are. This would have been between Rory’s junior and senior year at Villanova. I get sucked in and ask the guy what it was like playing with an individual of Rory Sparrow’s caliber. The guy’s response was, “Man, I be doggin’ Rory Sparrow!” Shut up, asshole!

I guess I just miss it all. As I get older, I find less and less that compares with the experience. We felt alive and fit and, well, manly. I miss it a lot.

© Copyright 2015 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Miracle Bra

    I visited a doctor the other day and during the usual wait in the aptly named waiting room, I picked up a magazine. The magazine caught my interest for two reasons. First, it was well over 400 pages, but more noteworthy was a tease for an article on the cover. The article was touting 25 miracle bras. InstyleWith so many pages to fill, it didn’t surprise me to find 253 new fall looks or 349 steals under $100. What spurred my curiosity was the possibility that 25 different bras could all be sufficiently noteworthy to warrant the designation of “miracle”.

    I began my investigation by looking at the table of contents to find the article. This in itself was no small task. I had to thumb through merely 30 pages of ads just to find the location of the article. This took some time, so it was fortunate that I was visiting a doctor. As I searched, I noticed that nearly every page contained an advertisement and every advertisement contained a photo of a model. Given the height, weight, and build of these models, It was unlikely that any of them had much use for a bra, miracle or otherwise, unless of course they were modeling it. Upon finding the table of contents, I moved on to page 383, excited to find out more about this divine intervention into ladies unmentionables.

    Before revealing my findings, I’d like to provide a little bit of information about miracles. I have provided a dictionary entry for starters.

Miracle – noun
1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.
3. a wonder; marvel.

    As you can see, we’ve set the bar pretty high. I’m sure we can agree that definition #1 is out. I consider myself a breast man, but surpassing all known human powers? Hoover Dam came in under budget, was completed early, and is still working after like 70 years, and that’s not a miracle. As for #2, I may have invoked God upon seeing a few breasts in my day, but those times are reserved for the removal of the bra rather than for the bra itself.

    This brings up the subject of miracles in the act of beatification, or basically, the granting of sainthood. The Catholic Church does this occasionally (although no bras have made the cut to my knowledge). It was pretty rare until Pope John Paul II came along in 1978. He was the Wilt Chamberlain of beatification granting access to the luxury boxes of Heaven 1340 times. That is more saints than all of the Popes in the previous 388 years combined. This is the sports miracle equivalent of the 1980 US Hockey team beating the Russians every 15 weeks for nearly four centuries! Even Al Michaels isn’t going for that.

    I would consider #3 in the ballpark particularly based on the opinion of a woman and her comfort. For guys, regardless of the shaping, a bra is primarily window dressing. Have you ever received a gift so beautifully wrapped that you never opened it? I didn’t think so. And besides, we know what’s in this package. Eliminating a proper application of the word miracle leaves us with the use of hyperbole.

    Hyperbole is an extravagant statement or figure of speech with obvious and intentional exaggeration not meant to be taken literally. I would ask the math geeks to please avoid confusing hyperbole with the similarly spelled hyperbolae, which is the plural of hyperbola. A hyperbola is a type of smooth curve lying in a plane. Sound familiar? If that doesn’t creep you out, it is also one of four conic sections. I believe that this picture from the article supports (pun intended) the hyperbole theory. BraWhile this particular bra appears to be made of gossamer, it is actually made of polyester. Notice that it is not made of tungsten or Kevlar making the $105 retail price somewhat miraculous. Take a good look at the size range. This bra comes in a cup size of B to G. If this thing can hold a G cup, we might be getting close to a miracle. I’m picturing the Kool-Aid guy bursting through a brick wall.

    I would assume that full-figured women are in greater need of a miracle than others. This is another one of the miracle bras from the article. I expect that were this model to put on a baseball cap and some tighty whiteys,Small Bra she could go topless and pass for Marky Mark. Of course, this led to further research. A quick Google search revealed that Miracle Bra is Victoria’s Secret trademarked product. There is also a Paris Miracle Bra and an Aussie Miracle Bra (insert Southern Hemisphere joke here). There is also a Wonderbra, a Miraculous Bra, A Genie Bra and a Convertible Contour Bra (for riding with the top down, I assume).

    There is even a new miracle bra that goes on the inside…not the inside of your blouse, but on the inside of your flesh! It even has fine silk straps. No polyester in this baby.under skin bra I’m guessing that this also goes for slightly more than $105. It makes you wonder what other types of sub dermal clothing might be considered miraculous. A “Bro” with great hair who also likes his ball cap could have the cap medically placed under his scalp with the visor sticking out through his forehead. I asked my wife her opinion on all of this, but she had little interest in my research. She said that if I could go a week without touching her bra or their contents, that would be miracle enough for her.

© Copyright 2015 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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