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.

* * *

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6 thoughts on “Can I Play?

  1. Tim Ryland says:

    A new moniker for games of more than ten players: Lunchsketbrawl.

  2. G $ says:

    Ok….I am shocked at the “betrayal” of some of my compatriots that would label me an “elite-ist” and suggest that I am ruling this lunchetball league with an “iron fist”! I in NO way ever want to alienate anyone from playing……when the majority of the group look to me to regulate the participation and not invite “too” many players….then it is up to me to get the job done! I give my blood, sweat and tears to make these games happen, I have installed some really nice rule changes and try to pick the best weather in which to play in if it means playing earlier then so be it! I have to regulate the amount of participation or we would end up with 15 players on a given day and then they all look at me and ask why? are you responsible for this? how many did you say could play? oh…..yes…the questions and accusations run long……so I “take the bull by the horns” and make decisions for the “good of the many” instead of the good of the one or the “few”! And what do I get for all my troubles? Accusations like the ones thrown at ex mayor Bob Filner………he did it….he told me this and he told me that……that is a crock of minutia!!! these stories have be changed to fit the side of the witness to protect their integrity and ruin mine! I will not stand for it! I do what is fair for the majority and that is all! I have been slandered by both of those two “supposed friends” and now I know where I stand………where is the justice here? And I was willing to go with it until the very last line in this blog post……where it was “suggested” that I not play if there are too many? I think not………….I will be a regulator as long as I can do it….when I am ready to step down I will and not a day before…and I will have my day in court to stand up to these dreadful accusations! The truth will one day come out and then you will all be surprised! peace/out
    Commish G$

  3. Anonymous says:

    I need to stand up on the Commissioner’s side on this one. As Deputy Commissioner I have to step in when G$ is unavailable or on IR, and I can testify that it’s a time-consuming and often thankless job. You need to contact the players and see who is available on any given day – You need to check on the condition of the court – You need to brainstorm and come up with teams – You need to get the balls down to the court – You need to get e-mail addresses from prospective Lunchsketballers who find their way to the court – And that’s all on a daily basis. The “Too-many-guys” scenario plays out once a month (if that) and needs to be viewed and weighed against they daily work of putting a game together. Often times you end up having to cajole, harass, or blackmail that last piece of the puzzle into playing or there wouldn’t be a game at all. And then you need to deal with the controversies – The doping scandal involving Dervish and Sloth Testicular Hormone – Whether T-Ry really is too old to be out there – Whether sweat should be a banned substance…I’m just saying it’s a difficult job where difficult decisions need to be made and we should be thankful for those who offer up their time to get the job done.

    • Anonymous says:

      Finally…..the voice of reason prevails…..and I have some “backup” on this blog…….touche my Kracker…….you da man!

  4. G $ says:

    here is my quote of the day ….and this deals with the present situation as it stands……..
    “These are dog days,” KG said. “This is really where you really see who’s with you. Ain’t nobody cheering, ain’t no lights on us and I love this right now. Because this is where all the plastic people melt right here”
    well said KG….I know what you are saying bro!

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