Links: Embarrass Yourself

by March 10, 2011

by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

Spent the last few days on the road doing interviews and a book signing to try and sell some books. (BTW, shouts to the Wall Street Journal for the terrific review earlier this week.)

The other day while I was killing time in the airport, I came across a travel magazine that had asked its readers to send in their most embarrassing travel stories. The reader who’d submitted the most embarrassing story won a free trip. It was fun to read the stories, and it reminded me of a few years ago when I ran a similar contest here on The Links, where I asked you guys to email in your most embarrassing basketball stories.

But mostly it reminded me that we should probably do it again. We’ve all had experiences where we’re playing ball, either with friends or in front of people or even alone, where we something happened that we wish hadn’t happened. When we did this last time, I gave the example of the city championship game I played in when I was in 11th grade. The gym was packed, and I checked in and promptly tripped on my own feet and bit it while trying to grab a rebound.

This morning Ryne and Tzvi were watching this Youtube video…

That clip reminded me of back when I was in high school, during my junior year. The church my family attended had a big gym/fitness facility that a lot of people in the community used, and I had a part-time job working there. During the school year I mostly worked on Saturdays, helping organize and run the recreational basketball leagues for little kids up through high schoolers (making sure we had scorekeepers, refs, etc.). I couldn’t work much during the week because I had school and basketball practice, but I’d stay all day every Saturday and would be the last person to leave the building. I needed to have some sort of a job so I could have a little spending money, but really, the best thing about the job was that I got a set of keys to the building. So I could come to the cavernous gym whenever, crank up the sound system, and have an entire basketball court (with glass baskets and breakaway rims) to myself.

One day my boss told me that the gym floor was going to be refinished, and he needed me to get all the tape up off the court. (Rewind a bit: For the younger kids games on Saturdays, we would have two games going at the same time, side-to-side on movable baskets, and we had those smaller courts marked off on the floor with multicolored tape.) So after we finished our Saturday schedule of games, I’d have to lock up the building and then get to work pulling up the tape and have it all done by Sunday morning, so the guys from the refinishers could come in and get to work.

That tape had been on the court for a year, and it had absorbed so much pounding and abuse that as soon as I started to try and pull it up, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to do this job by hand. I went around to one of the janitor’s supply closets and found a pair of latex gloves, a couple of metal scrapers and a box of cans of Goof Off. I went over and flipped on the stereo system and went to work.

It was intensive labor. I dropped to my knees and slowly edged my way around the court, pouring on the Goof Off, waiting for it to soak into the tape and eat through the adhesive, then scraping up every bit of the tape, then picking up every scrap that remained.

After a few hours I looked up and realized I wasn’t even halfway finished; I’d be lucky if I was finished before midnight. At least I was getting paid by the hour.

I stood and stretched my legs. While I waited for the Goof Off to work its magic on the next few feet of tape, I went to the other end and shot some jumpers. Maybe it was the fumes or maybe I was just getting stir crazy, I’m not sure, but I decided I needed to see what it was like to dunk on a breakaway rim. I could jump and touch the rim, but to really throw it down I would need some help. I walked around to the edge of the court and pulled out a metal folding chair and set it a few feet in front of the rim on an angle, so I could come in from the wing as if I was on the break. I did a few slow-mo walk-throughs, trying to make sure I had the spacing correct. Finally, I backed way up, took a few dribbles, then took off on a sprint toward the chair.

As it turned out, I had gauged the spacing perfectly. What I had managed not to consider was that a metal folding chair probably wasn’t the sturdiest device from which to launch myself. As I planted my right foot on the seat of the chair, my moving body mass immediately transferred to the chair. What was formerly in motion was now moving, and suddenly I was awkwardly surfing across the basketball court, one-footed, atop a metal folding chair. Together we slid under the rim and out of bounds, where the chair slid into some tape I had not yet removed and came to an abrupt stop. At which point our combined inertia left the chair and transferred wholly back into my body. I launched into the air and sailed, feet-first, maybe three feet. I landed hard, flat on my back, about two feet shy of a bank of metal bleachers that were pushed against the baseline wall. Somehow I was still clinging to the basketball.

I laid there for a few seconds, wrapping my brain around what had happened, then slowly starting working my way through my body parts, making sure everything was still working. I wasn’t in any serious pain, and luckily nothing was broken. I’d come pretty close to landing on my neck, which could have been disastrous, not to mention what might have happened if I broke a leg or arm or something and was stuck out there on the middle of a basketball court all alone without a phone or anything within reach.

Eventually I got up, put the chair away, and went back to work. I suppose it was a situation that could have been terrible. But now, in retrospect, even I can admit that it must have looked pretty hilarious.

That’s the kind of embarrassing moment we’re looking for. Now, in the comments, tell me your most embarrassing hoops epic fail. Oh, and how’s this: For the best story, I’ll kick in a size XL Li-Ning Baron Davis Beardman varsity jacket. Li Ning gave it to me a while back, and I tried it on but found it too snug, so it’s never been worn, but it is really dope.

You’ve got until Monday at noon, and the winner will be whatever story makes me laugh the most.

Now go at it, embarrass yourself…