The Week in Lunchsketball

Main Story:

EL CAJON, CA — Time to start practicing, because the St. Katherine College men’s basketball team has unofficially accepted the invitation to join the Lunchsketball players for a game. The Firebirds will be the first basketball team to scrimmage Lunchsketball, ever. This game cannot be scheduled any earlier than March (the conclusion of the Firebirds’ season), but already a buzz of excitement is building around the Lunchsketball court.

With the game still in the distance, questions abound. Will Coach Mitchell drop the clipboard and pick up the ball? Will the 6’8″ thunderous dunker Dale Austin be healthy? Do the backboards in El Cajon even withstand thunderous dunks? How will these teams match up? The T-Birds appear to hold the height advantage – look at the St. Katherine roster. Lunchsketball, however, clearly holds an edge with experience, having a vast advantage in years and life-experiences.

One thing is for sure: it’s going to be an exciting spring in El Cajon.

Game of the Week:

In a locker room meeting prior to Friday’s game, George wondered aloud whether wearing his Penny Hardaway Team USA Jersey might spark the team. Darin’s response was one that would set the tone for the game to come: “We haven’t been playing well. We need to earn those uniforms”.

Sans officially licensed Team USA uniforms then, the Dream Team took the court on Friday for the fifth time in what has been a rocky 2014 for the fan-favorites. “We’re having a rough January. My guys have been sick”, said Kerry (aka “Animal Kracker”), to explain his team’s 0-4 start.

Matt, Erik and Adam were all too aware of their opponent’s struggles. Smelling blood, they put up a furious effort to land what might have been a devastating blow, taking a late 32-31 lead. A cornered animal is a dangerous animal though, and from that point on, the Dream Team stole the game, emerging with a much-needed 50-40 victory.

“That was hard fought”, said Erik afterward. “Thing was, we didn’t want you to win, but you guys didn’t want us to win either.”

Full Court Press:

Two games of 3 on 3 were played this week; the player shortage comes at the worst moment for commissioner Gary, currently embroiled in a scandal alleging he pushed much-needed extra players away… Darin used profanity during Friday’s game; after a turnover, he inadvertently dropped a word considered disrespectful to poops… That was the first recorded instance of Triple cussing on the court… New nick-name for Jim: “Sir Kicks-a-lot”… The Dream Team is actually 1-1 when playing as the “pure” Dream Team – in 3 losses they had an extra player, so those technically should be counted separately this year…

Player of the Week:

Congratulations Adam (aka “Whirling Dervish”)! On Friday, the Dervish hit the first 3-pointer of his Lunchsketball career. And then, with the lid off, he stepped up on knocked down a second 3-pointer moments later. And that, is how you get Player of the Week.

Can I Play?

EL CAJON, CA — The hardest thing about pickup basketball is managing the number of players. The game is meant for 10 players (or in the case of Lunchsketball, 8 players). Go above that number, and the court gets crowded. Fall below that number, and there is more open space on the court, and the game becomes a track meet. To have either of those two problems means that you are lucky in the first place – it’s a small miracle in this day and age to find enough guys willing to meet up and play basketball at all.

Gary (aka “G-Money”), has voluntarily positioned himself as commissioner of Lunchsketball, and thus taken up this task of personnel management. Bearing no actual authority, Gary has become resourceful in finding ways to control who shows up on the court at lunch and who stays back at the office. Among the methods at his disposal are peer pressure, guilt, payroll (in cases where he signs a timesheet), and shaming,  to name a few.

Gary’s methods came under the spotlight this week when John (aka “Versace”), contacted the Lunchsketball blog, wishing to share an incident in which he became involved. He alleges that on the morning of January 13th, 2014, he emailed Gary the commissioner, requesting to play basketball at lunch. He received this reply from Gary:

 “Sorry John….we have enough today…..maybe tomorrow…..” 

“[Gary] tried to tell me that he wasn’t trying to diss me, and that he would see if he could ‘slip me in’ later in the week,” explained John. “His attitude was that you can’t just come in and expect to play.”

The idea of excluding a particular player from Lunchsketball does raise some questions, but especially in the case of someone like John, whose struggles getting onto the court are well documented. Of all the players to freeze out, John was perhaps an unfortunate choice. 

“It’s my first time back in a year,” says John. “That’s not a very good way to encourage me to keep coming out. Obviously I was disappointed. I got up that morning, and I was excited, I told my wife I’d be playing , and then to have my hopes dashed like that… my heart was broken. It just took the wind out of my sails. For the rest of the day I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

In approaching the Lunchsketball blog with this story, John wanted to make it clear that he does not hold any animosity to Gary. Because John insists that he is on good terms with the commissioner, it would be nice to say that’s the end of the story.  But it isn’t. When one victim steps forward, the case is often that there will be more to follow.  What happened to John was not an isolated incident. The second victim, who wishes to be called “E”, in order to protect his identity, provided an interview so startling, that it must be transcribed in full as follows:

Anonymous Victim "E"

Anonymous Victim, “E”

LB: When John told you that he wasn’t allowed to play, what did that make you think?

E: I felt guilt. I felt guilty because I was going to play, and I felt sorry for John.

LB: You’ve been in John’s situation before. Can you tell us about that?

E: It doesn’t feel good. You come into work, expecting to play basketball, and come noon? You’re not allowed to play! Why me? And most of the time, when I’m not able to play, I’m harassed for that: “Come on. You’ve gotta play! You’ve gotta play! You’ve gotta play!” And then, on a day I’m prepared to play? No luck. It’s schizophrenic! He wants it both ways at once.

LB:  In his email, Gary suggested that John could play, “maybe tomorrow”? Do you believe that Gary really believed there would be a game at all “tomorrow”?

E: I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable answering that.

LB: So we know that this has happened before. Since there’s a history, do you worry that these types of abuses might continue to happen?

E: I’m always concerned that it’s going to happen to me again, because it’s been me in the past. It’s a strange a position, because even though I hope it doesn’t happen to me, I know it’s going to happen, and I don’t want to wish it on somebody else. I wish we could just go with 13 or 14 guys and play, and just make it work. One extra guy is not going to hurt anybody.

LB: Do you have any advice for John, in dealing with this?

E: Take heart. The field is always open amongst the other players, even if the commissioner [Gary] doesn’t feel so open.

LB: What words would you have for Gary, if he were here right now?

E: Soften your heart. Just let everyone enjoy the game. I always say, in quiet, hey, if you don’t like playing with 10 or 11 guys, you can step out. The rest of us are willing to put up with 11 guys, and do battle.

* * *

Open Letter To Coach Scott Mitchell

Subject: Proposed Game vs Firebirds

Sent: Sun 01/12/2014 9:30 PM



Dear Coach Mitchell,

I hereby challenge your St. Katherine College Firebirds Men’s Basketball team to a game against me and my co-workers during our lunch break.

In considering this challenge, please remember the sportsmanship of one Steve Fisher, who brought his squad of blue-chippers to play against your upstart Firebirds in a gesture of class and goodwill. Just as it was a break-through for your program to take the floor against the Aztecs, the opportunity to match up against a legitimate, NAIA organization such as St. Katherine College would mean the world to my boys.

It can be any work day, for about an hour between 12 and 2. The venue is an outdoor court in El Cajon, CA. You can find out all about the players and our program’s rich history at (Lunch + Basketball = Lunchsketball, see).

Above all, I’d like you to know that I have the utmost admiration for your team. First of all, I love St. Catherine of Alexandria (using the “K” is an Orthodox thing… why don’t you guys just be Catholic? We can talk about that later). And secondly, I love the name. The Firebirds. I think that the mascot should be a Pontiac Firebird. Or maybe the Firebird mascot himself could be more conventional, like a guy in a big bird suit with flames on it (kids love that stuff), but HE could lead the team into the arena inside a roaring 1980 Trans Am, waiving the St. Katherine College banner through the open T-top, with the likeness of Saint Katherine herself at the steering wheel, which would, appropriately, be covered with intimidating spikes. Picture that. Did you just get chills?

EncinitasBut what am I doing, giving tips to the competition? Well, consider that nugget your stipend in advance. Now you have to make the trip. Let’s talk logistics. According to the St. Katherine College website, your Encinitas campus is just minutes from downtown San Diego, and so by my calculations, El Cajon is also just minutes from Encinitas. I would love to play at your venue, but there is no way I could talk the guys into a road trip. They are dads and family men, and their wives would not approve of any of this.

I don’t know what else to say. Please? You really only need to send 4 guys. Three will do just as well, but Lunchsketball is putting four of our guys on the court at a time. You are welcome to be a player-coach too. Your call.

Respectfully yours,


New Player Profile: Tim

If you would rather not subject yourself to a butchered performance of a reprehensible song, then here are the Cliffsnotes: The above video is a Lunchsketball first – a player profile, set to “music”. The lyrics are about how Tim, aka “T-Ry”, aka “Benjamin Button” is pretty good at basketball, but he gets hurt a lot. He is tough and will probably be back on the court eventually. The End.