There are a lot of things that irritate me about playing basketball. Bad shots, errant passes, cheap fouls. Those are just occupational hazards that are part and parcel of the sport. But there are plenty of other petty annoyances that can suck the fun out of your weekly pickup game. Here are my top ten pet peeves that have nothing to do with actually playing pickup basketball.

1. Man stink: Back in the 1960s, The Jetsons showed us an amazing future rife with technological marvels: Flying cars, robot maids, and jobs that consisted entirely of pushing a single button all day long. Guess what? Hanna-Barbera lied to us. I sat in Chicago traffic for over an hour last night, then I had to go home and do my own laundry, and a quick glance at my keyboard tells me my that job is 104 times more difficult than George Jetson's. Nevertheless, there are at least two technologies that we've mastered since the 60s: Deodorant and mouth wash. These are simple products available at almost any convenience store. Better yet, they take only seconds to use. However, there are always one or two guys that reek of body odor and halitosis. I guess stinky people can't detect their own foul stench. But this isn't Europe. Daily showers are pretty common in this country. Aren't they?

man stink
Yes. You stink.

2. Untrimmed fingernails: Basketball is a very physical sport. Factor in the general clumsiness and lack of coordination of the average pickup basketball player, and it's highly likely that you'll get thugged at least once during a game. That thugging will be even worse if your attacker is armed with unsightly man claws. I've walked away from pickup games looking like I got a Swedish massage from Freddy Krueger. Look, if you're not a reasonably attractive woman and we aren't engaged in an aggressive display of physical intimacy, I don't want your fingernail tracks down my back. Clip those freaky things.

long nails
Please trim those before you guard me.

3. Shirts and skins: Thanks to the wonders of Mighty Science, we now have bionic suits for the handicapped, robot nurses, flying beds, clothing that can give us a hug, and machines that can create drinking water out of thin air. But despite these modern miracles, the best method we've devised for telling two teams apart in pickup basketball is for one of the teams to be half-naked. You know, I once played in a pickup league where you had to have two shirts: One light and one dark. Once the teams have been determined, one group put on the light shirts, and the other group put on the dark shirts. Yet despite the amazing simplicity of this system, I've never managed to implement it in any other pickup league. The most common reaction is, "I'll never be able to remember to bring two shirts." It's amazing these junior Einsteins can even remember how to tie their shoes or drive their cars to the gym. The only thing I can figure is that they enjoy seeing the bare, bloated bodies of the hairy, middle-aged men they hoop with.

shirts and skins
There has to be a better way...

4. Body hair: I'm not talking about manly tufts of Chuck Norris-style chest hair; I'm talking about stringy, carpet-like, Teen Wolf-style pelts. Maybe I've been conditioned by years of seeing hairless men on the cover of Men's Health, but I find sweaty, matted hair disgusting, particularly when it's rubbing against me in the low post. Now, I'm not suggesting that my fellow players should endure the crippling pain of waxing or the embarrassment of a full-bodied shave. But a little manscaping would be nice. Here are some basis questions that will help you determine whether you have a body hair problem. Does hair poke out of your collar and sleeves like it's trying furiously to escape? When your arms are pressed firmly against your sides, is a clump of armpit hair still clearly visible? Can you braid your back? If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, it's time for a trim.

body hair
Unless it's Halloween, I suggest some
serious manscaping, immediately.

5. Showing up late: Sometimes a latecomer is welcomed with open arms. This happens, for instance, when you've got nine guys and need a 10th for a full-court, five-on-five game. However, there are other times when some schmuck shows up and causes a chain reaction in which the teams have to be totally restructured to fit him in. This inevitably leads to you getting removed from a good team and "traded" to a team full of guys who shoot granny-style and constantly dribble off their own feet. Look, if your tardiness is going to screw over everybody else in your pickup league, you're honor bound to turn yourself around and head home in shame.

6. Injuries: Last week, I was helping a friend move. Some idiot had parked in front of his car carrier, so we couldn't back the moving truck up to it. Since we're men, we didn't bother to knock on doors so we could find the driver and ask him to move his car. No, we decided to just drag the 1,500-pound car carrier over to the moving truck. Suffice to say, I blew the hell out of my back. I still went to my weekly pickup league, even though I couldn't stand up straight and could hardly walk. Naturally, I made a fool of myself and received from fellow players what every man hates: Pity without mercy. In other words, they gave me words of sympathy right before they took it right to me. Injuries can suck in other ways, too. Like when you have exactly 10 guys and somebody twists a knee or sprains an ankle. You try to act like you care about his health, but what you're really thinking is, "I hope this dude gets back up so we can finish the game."

Nothing throws a wet blanket on
the night quite like an injury.

7. Water fountains: Physiology tells us that the human body is about 70 percent water. Basketballogy tells us that number can drop to as low as 10 or 15 percent after a few pickup games. This means that rehydration is of the utmost importance. However, unless you brought along a bottle of water or some Gatorade, you're at the mercy of your gym's drinking fountains. And that's not a good thing. Drinking fountains were designed by sadists to provide a weak, flimsy dribble of lukewarm water. Technically speaking, it provides enough water to sustain you, but it never satisfies. Is it that hard to design a drinking fountain that emits a full stream of cool, refreshing water? Apparently so.

drinking fountain
Expect water. Don't expect satisfaction.

8. Sweat: The human body is an amazingly efficient biological machine. You eat food and it becomes energy. You drink water, and it becomes...well, it becomes something really important on its way through your body. However, the downside is that what's left of the food and water has to come out. Normally, this only affects your poor toilet. But if you're a volume sweater, it affects everybody you play basketball with. Your nasty man juice will get all over the ball, defenders, and teammates you bump into on your awkward drives to the hoop. Hey, I'm a sweater too. I know you can't control the amount of perspiration your body spits out. But you can bring a towel and mop yourself off from time to time.

9. Ass gas: Men are not, by nature, healthy eaters, and I know a few guys who like to power up with a pre-game repast that consists of a Big Mac or a few burritos from Taco Bell. Unfortunately, such a meal typically results in regular bursts of noxious flatulence. Walking into a warm cloud of another man's musty butt vapor is bad enough under normal circumstances, when you can at least hold your breath until the ass fumes fade peacefully away. But sprinting up and down a basketball court tends to leave people out of breath, which means you end up sucking in two or three solid mouthfuls of some dude's anal emissions. Not pleasant.

Neat trick. Don't bring it to the league.

10. The weather: Men like to keep things simple. We tend to go to and return from our weekly pickup forways wearing what we play in. Unfortunately, that often means trudging through puddles of water and drifts of snow wearing shorts and a tank top. Then we end up tracking water, snow (which quickly becomes dirty water), and mud all over the court, turning it into a cold and slippery deathtrap. And don't forget, walking all hot and sweaty out into the chill of winter is a good way to end up with a crippling case of pneumonia. Of course, these annoyances assume you actually get to play inside somewhere. If you play outside, well, you're just screwed.

Yep. You're screwed.

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Anonymous 80's NBA said...
Shirts and Skins is much better when it's guys vs. girls... and the guys are shirts.

Blogger Pete Fresh said...
That "Along Came Polly" scene was awesome, and I mean awesome in the throw-up-in-your-mouth kind of way.
Also, that shirts vs skins joke was funny all through middle school, but after that you can expect a sexual harasment suit, or a kick in the nuts.

Blogger Joel said...
it's funny. i live in japan, and shirts and skins is more or less UNHEARD of here. the cats i play pick-up with always bring 3 or 4 sets of those lightweight, brightly-colored, mesh practice jerseys that we throw on after making teams. very thoughtful and efficient. failing that, most of the time you just have to try and remember who's on your team (which i find even more annoying than the shirts/skins alternative). other solutions i've seen are shirts tucked and untucked (kinda lame) or even simply trading light and dark shirts among the players if the numbers work out.

one complaint i DO have about them, tho, is that even tho people bring their own nice balls to shoot around with before the game, no one ever wants to give theirs up for actual game use, so we end up using the shitty gym/rec center-issued ball. wtf.

Anonymous starang said...
Jerseys or skins, never try the "remember your teammate" scheme, because I'll be the guy with 5 steals in a 7 minute pickup game...because you forgot and passed it to me when I said "I'm open".

As for the icy hoop...we don't have that down here in Phoenix, but judging by the picture, I would just hammer dunk the ice right off that rim, and melt the snow off the court by being on the skins team.

Marion for Odom, or Marion for AK-47? Which is the better trade (for the Suns)?

Anonymous 80's NBA said...
pete fresh..."that shirts vs skins joke was funny all through middle school, but after that you can expect a sexual harasment suit, or a kick in the nuts."


Guess you wouldn't like my other joke about "takin' it to the hole" either.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
80s NBA -- I thinking bouncing tits would actually detract from the game. Now, some nice sports bras...that would be sweet.

pete -- Thanks. I just threw up in my mouth. Happy?

joel -- See, there *are* many different ways of playing it. Maybe it's living in the American Midwest; everybody's too conservative to consider change. How's the ball in Japan?

starang -- I would never, EVER trade for Lamar Odom. He just gets injured too much, and he's only about 75 percent right now. The only trade I'd consider for Marion would be AK47, but my hope is that Marion will get his head out of his ass and figure out his life freakin' rocks the way it is.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Re: Shirts and skins -

I am vehemently opposed to a team playing skins for the many gross reasons you listed, but the light shirt dark shirt thing? Come the hell on - how difficult is it to remember which 5 guys are on your team?

And the "I'm open" trick is a douchebag move. Always has been, always will be.

My peeve to add to the list is: after a few games, sweaty bastards deciding they still need to stretch more and then not bothering to do anything about the deadly pool of sweat they've left behind right at centre court.

Blogger Joel said...
ball in japan... well, it's tough to find a place to play, for one thing. as far as i know, save maybe for tokyo, they simply don't do outdoor courts at the parks here. this is painfully confounding. generally, if you wanna play non-league, you gotta get a group of people together and rent gym time. if you don't know that many people, you have to hope a friend of yours does and can get you in with a group of folks who play regularly (which is what i was lucky enough to do -- and i still have to take a 20-minute train ride just to get to the gym they play at). generally, people ar pretty friendly, and if you happen to stumble upon folks playing in a gym, it's probably not a difficult thing to get in with them (read: NOTHING like cracking the court in the states).

once in, you gotta be careful to play nice, because, hey -- we're all friends here *smh*. it's also pretty much all drive-and-kick (this goes for the lowest levels all the way to japanese pro ball -- not a whole lot of stuff going on inside). also, from my experience, you simply cannot throw a japanese (pick up) player a lob, no matter how tall and open they are -- they WILL simply watch the ball sail out of bounds, and everyone else WILL stare at you like you just squatted down and took a dump on the court.

'course, i live in a relatively rural area, and this may not apply EVERYWHERE, but i'm willing to bet it's more rule than exception.

as for trying to remember everyone on your team without a consistent visual aid....? ummm, not to perpetuate racial stereotypes, but dude....

Blogger Joel said...
OH! i forgot one more quirky (but kinda fun) thing that *may* only apply to the people i play with -- we all warm up together like a single team before picking sides. we do passing-lay up drills and 2-on1 and 2-on-2 drills. guess it helps maintain the competitive-but-not-too-killer atmosphere.

Anonymous starang said...
I completely agree. An absolute douchebag move. I'm a douchebag, but I average 5 steals a game.

But, do you know who is the ultra-mega-douchebag is? The guy who passed it to me for the turnover....and you sound like your speaking from experience.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You guys are a bunch of girls oh he has no shirt thats not attractive. your not going out with the guy your just playing ball with him. 5 steals poop shit i could do that in my sleep.I am ggggoooddd.Step to my level hoe's!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I took the image of the guy with the long nails. You don't have the permission to use this picture on your site. The use of this pic is against international copyright laws. Please, take my picture away from your site.

Btw. your comment on this picture is more than stupid.

Blogger Anonymous said...
Really?! Oh jeez.....we'll get right on that. : (