With the weather severely limiting my ability to spent countless hours playing basketball on the various outdoor courts of my hometown, I decided to use the extra time for off-court training.

The decision was made one particularly bitter February day while visiting Gauvin. There was an old weight bench (complete with the weights) sitting in a heap in the backyard, half-buried in the snow. I rather stupidly asked Gauvin whether the bench was being used, and Gauvin rather stupidly replied, "I don't know."


Anyway, this led to a short negotiation with Gauvin's dad, Vern, for ownership of the unused weight bench. We settled on a price of $50, which I thought was a pretty good deal for a bench that came with all the weights (most benches I had seen in the local sporting goods stores were sold without the weights). I'm sure Vern thought he was the one who'd gotten the deal, considering he now had a wad of cash in his pocket from selling something that was probably destined to be thrown out with the trash someday soon.

Gauvin helped me load the bench into my Fury, and I quickly drove home to set it up. There wasn't any room in my house for a weight bench, so I had to set it up in the garage. Of course, my mom was (and still is) a bit of a hoarder -- and saying "a bit" is a probably a significant understatement -- so I had to wedge the bench into very small space between boxes of Christmas decorations and huge bags of who-knows-what.

The bench was a little on the wobbly side, not to mention more than a little rusty, but I was stoked. I had been eyeballing weight benches for a while. Of all possible exercises, bench pressing seemed like the most manly. That's what all the guys at school either did, wanted to do, or talked about doing. In terms of the measures of manhood, the amount of weight a young man could bench press rivaled penis size and how many bases he had made it to with a girl.

Now, I had never actually attempted a bench press before, and I didn't attempt one the day I set up my new-but-used bench. I have no idea why. I guess the act of transporting it to my house and assembling it had been enough of a workout that day. Instead, I waited until one day after school the next week...which ended up being a pretty big mistake.

Oddly enough, my mom was out of town. She was still working at Delco Electronics, which made various car parts for General Motors. However, she has somehow stumbled into a position as liaison with another Delco plant that had been opened in Mexico, where the workers could be paid in lesser currencies (old rocks and chunks of rusty metal for instance) to do the same work fat Kokomoans were doing for upwards of $30 an hour. At any rate, my mom was in another country, and I was home alone.

I am very sad and embarrassed to report that this did not lead to a wild party or any other adventures. I didn't put a bra on my head and try to make a girl using an old Commodore 64, ala Weird Science. (But don't think I didn't want to. I mean the making a girl part, not the bra on my head part.) Nope. I did a lot of sitting around and eating pizza. And I tried out my weight bench.

Someone had driven my mom to the airport, so her car was still in the garage. The available space was so packed with stuff that I could barely walk through it to get to the bench. Inexperienced as I was, I didn't have a clear idea about how much weight I should use. However, 200 pounds sounded like a nice, manly number. So I jammed a hundred pounds of weights onto either side of the bar, squeezed past our old Christmas tree, and settled down onto the bench.

It took literally all my might to heave the bar off the bench, which should have made my Spider Sense tingle. But I was psyched and my testosterone was pumping. Therefore, instead of dropping the bar back into the braces, I slowly lowered it to my chest...

...and there it stayed.

I couldn't move it. I could not lift this thing an inch off my chest. In fact, it was taking every iota of my available strength to keep it from laying directly on me. Within about a minute of struggling, I didn't have enough strength for even that, and I was forced to let a portion of the weight rest on my chest. Now, I had grown up reading comic books, and whenever a hero really, really needed to something that required a phenomenal amount of strength, they would just imagine something inspiring -- like how Aunt May was going to die if Spider-Man didn't recover the poison antidote that Doctor Octopus had left laying just out of his reach -- which would result in an adrenaline surge that provided the hero without however much strength was required to accomplish the heretofore impossible task.

Well, I tried this method. Turns out, it doesn't work very well unless you've been bitten by a radioactive spider or exposed to gamma rays.

Now the weight was really pressing down on me. I couldn't expand my chest to get full breaths, so when I tried to scream all that came out was a rattling gasp. There was so much crap on either side of the bench, I couldn't tip the weights to either side of me. There was no escape. I couldn't yell for help. And my mom wasn't going to be home for days.

I'm going to die, I thought.

That did it. Now I got an adrenaline surge. However, it wasn't a dramatic movie moment. Like, I didn't toss the weighted bar aside like it was a paper weight. Instead, my adrenaline provided me just enough power to kinda-sorta lift the bar up enough on one side to wriggle and squirm my way -- slowly and painfully -- out from underneath the bar (while also sliding partially under my mom's car in the process).

I celebrated my survival by kicking the weight bench that had almost just killed me...bruising the hell out of my foot in the process.

Good times.

Shortly after learning the importance of slowly building up to larger amounts of weight on bench press, I purchased a punching bag. Although, like most wanna-be manly men, I wanted a heavy bag, I opted to go for a speed bag instead. This was because I had heard or read somewhere that using a speed bag was good both for cardiovascular conditioning and for improving hand-eye coordination, which was a skill that could translate to other sports as well.

Because I didn't have a father around to do it for me, I had to install the bag myself. This was a problem because, again, I didn't have a father around to teach me important things. Such as when installing heavy items into drywall, you should really try to secure it into studs or wall supports. That would have been some damn handy information to have. I simply borrowed a drill from my next door neighbor, drilled some holes and screwed that sucker directly into the thin, flakey drywall.

I'm sure you can figure out where I'm going with this.

All things considered, I'm surprised things didn't go worse. I think the thing managed to stay in the wall for a couple weeks, which was probably a couple weeks longer than it should have. But at some point -- probably when I was punching for power instead of speed and dexterity -- the whole unit slid right off the wall and fell on me. Of course, being the idiot that I was, I just drilled some new holes and screwed it back onto the wall. This time, it only stayed up a couple days before falling off (this time I was ready and jumped out of the way in time).

Another failure.

Soon, I convinced Dave and Gauvin to come over and work out with me after school (but before my mom came home, meaning we had the extra car space to move around in). These days, between magazines like Men's Health and what you can find on the Internet, there are endless sources for good workout routines. But when I was a teenager, all we had were whatever crappy crap we could find at local bookstores or hear about by word of mouth.

This led to various forms of unintentional hilarity. For instance, Dave had heard from the friend of a friend of his brother's that a good ab workout was to stand against a solid wall, tighten your stomach muscles and let somebody punch you rapidly in the gut for a couple minutes (or however long you could ensure it). Next thing you knew, we were standing around punching each other. As a workout.

We also started running together. Unfortunately, Gauvin wasn't a runner. So the running circuit we devised -- which ran from Dave's house (which was across the street from our high school and a couple blocks from Boulevard school) to Highland Park (Kokomo's most prestigious park, home to Old Ben, the world's largest preserved steer) -- was much too far for Gauvin's tastes.

Therefore, it would go like this. We would start off at a moderate pace for the first half-mile or so. That's the point where Gauvin would start to lag behind. It wasn't that Gauvin wasn't in good shape. Hell, Vern believed in punishing his children with pushups and pull-ups. But he had no cardiovascular endurance whatsoever, mostly because he hated (and still hates) all forms of exercise that develop that kind of endurance.

After Gauvin started his "granny shuffle" (as me and Dave secretly called it), Dave and I would maintain our original pace until we'd gotten maybe a quarter mile ahead of Gauvin. Then we'd turn around, run back to where he was, then turn back around and resume our forward run. We would continue doing this for the duration of the run, meaning Dave and I would eventually run nearly twice the actual distance between the two points.

I should probably note that, at this particular time in my life, I didn't have a very clear notion of what good workout gear was. I had a standard basketball outfit (black Purdue shorts and a matching tank). But here was what I typically worked out in: an old-school Hulkamania tank top (complete with three rips across the back), a "Hulk Rules" bandana and a pair of yellow Purdue shorts. I probably looked like a huge, nerdy banana.

What's more, I owned exactly one pair of shoes: a pair of black Converse high tops. That's right, baby! I was rocking the Converse Weapon. These were my school shoes, my weight lifting shoes and my running shoes. They also would have been my date shoes if I had been going on any dates. Come to think about it, this fact might partially explain why I wasn't dating.

Here's a funny story. My future girlfriend, Aimee, heard me talking about going for a run and suggested we go running some time. I showed up for that run in -- I shit you not -- a pair of jean shorts and a Larry Bird t-shirt. Within about half a second of seeing me, Aimee said: "You...do realize we're going running right?"

That was the point where I finally went out and bought some legit workout clothes: mesh athletic shorts and tanks. Most of them were of decent size and quality, but, much to ongoing shame, I purchased a pair of 1980s-style Celtics practice shorts.

That is, short shorts.

What's worse, I would pair them with bike shorts (worn underneath), which had become a semi-popular practice in the NBA. I thought I looked awesome.

Regardless of how I looked, the new duds certainly made working out a lot more comfortable (and therefore enjoyable). So much so that I couldn't believe I'd been working out in what were basically street clothes for so long.

Anyway, winter was finally starting to fade. Around mid-March, the NBA on NBC was airing a matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Portland Trail Blazers. At the time, the Celtics were struggling (having lost three straight) and the Blazers were on fire (having won seven in a row). Larry Bird was on his last legs and playing in a cumbersome back brace that made him look either fat or box-like, depending on your point of view. Even worse, Portland -- the second-best team in the league and widely considered the only team that could knock the Bulls off in the Finals -- were a young, running, gunning team...Kryptonite for an old, gimpy team like Boston.

It was supposed to be a blowout. Instead, viewers were treated to an instant classic: Clyde Drexler went crazy (41 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, and 17 free throw attempts) but Larry Bird was, well, Larry Bird: 49 points (19-for-35), 14 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals and a blocked shot. What's more, Bird hit one of the craziest buzzer-beaters I've ever seen to force OT...a one-handed push shot while shuffling his feet in the midst of a bear hug from Drexler. It was, and still is, unbelievable that thing went in.

Here are some highlights:

I cannot tell you how juiced up I was after that game. It had seemed, I don't know, world changing. I felt like Bird was back. I felt like the Celtics could totally win the title that year as long as everybody stayed healthy. I thought, as Kevin Garnett would later say, ANYTHING IS POOOOSSSSSIIIBBBBBLLLLLEEE!!!

So I finally stated out loud what I had been thinking about for a while: "I'm going to be on the varsity basketball team my senior year."

Labels: , ,

Blogger Dan B. said...
Well, I tried this method. Turns out, it doesn't work very well unless you've been bitten by a radioactive spider or exposed to gamma rays.
So I finally stated out loud what I had been thinking about for a while: "I'm going to be on the varsity basketball team my senior year."

Ooh, let me guess! These two are going to combine in Part 7 to fufill your dream and propel you into an eventual NBA career, right?

(Or not.)

Anyway, brief aside: Bill Simmons appeared on ESPN's SportsNation TV show yesterday and filmed a nice parody of The Decision, complete with a tablecloth-pattern checkered shirt and Bill referring to himself in the third person. If nothing else, even if you hate Simmons, you really should at least watch the intro. It's full of all kinds of Clippery fail, and it absolutely made my morning. Airballs, stolen passes, and everything else that make the Clippers who we thought they were.

Blogger chris said...
Because I didn't have a father around to do it for me, I had to install the bag myself. This was a problem because, again, I didn't have a father around to teach me important things.

In other words, if you had started then and there to refer to yourself in the third person and subsequently taking an extra 10 steps before each shot, World Wide Wes would've come calling!?

Within about half a second of seeing me, Aimee said: "You...do realize we're going running right?"

That was the point where I finally went out and bought some legit workout clothes: mesh athletic shorts and tanks.

So this story is essentially Livin' Large: The High School Years?

Blogger Nick Flynt said...
The LeBron hate is strong in here. I don't recall that back in the days before the decision.

Good work as always, champ.

Blogger Basebawful said...
Watching the video and seeing a standing ovation for Clyde Drexler, man, that's class. That's acknowledging a great performance no matter if it's a player from the visiting team.

This weekend I watched the Braves vs Mets series in Citi Field (I'm a Braves fan) and Chipper Jones couldn't be seen, because he was booed every time.

I can't imagine a player being aplaudded playing as a visitor nowadays.

Blogger Basebawful said...
Dan B.

Thanks for posting the Bill Simmons video. I loved it.

Anonymous Geert said...
I love how the Boston fans give Clyde the Glide an ovation when he fouls out in that vid.

Also, I'm wearing converse weapon while reading this. The red-and-white-ones, though. How 'bout that.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The main page of your site keeps killing Firefox waiting for something called b.scorecardresearch.com.

I thought you should be aware of this; I will not be visiting this site again until whatever that is is fixed.

Anonymous Matt said...
If a visiting player was applauded now, you'd have Woody Paige and Screamin' Stephen talking about how those are terrible fans because they're not creating a hostile environment that makes it difficult for the opponents.

You know, how those two create a hostile environment on ESPN that makes it difficult for the viewers.

Blogger chris said...
Basebawful: Didn't the fans at MSG cheer on King Crab when he dropped 50+ there a few years ago? this was of course well before The Indigestion.

Blogger chris said...
Anonymous: In theory, you could put that scorecardresearch.com thing on your block list and Firefox should be able to bypass that afterwards...

Blogger Basebawful said...

I think they cheered so he would go to play to NY.

That was a phony, desperate and manipulative way of telling Lebron they (Kniks fans) are harmless.

I'm sure Lebron won't get that treatment in New York ever again.

If I'm not wrong, Kobe had a hell of a game days earlier or after. Did he receive an standing ovation?

Anonymous Matt said...
If there really was a basebawful, I'm sure that Ozzie Guillen and David Eckstein would be in the banner.

And those fans were cheering because they (foolishly) believed that ingratiating themselves to the Crustacean would make it more likely that he'd want to join the craptacular team that he just demolished.

Anonymous Matt said...
Bawful, wasn't it less than one year prior to getting the new weight set (with bench) that you had to have help loading the old weight set from Service Merchandise into your car? Had you not used the old set? If so, what prompted you to think that you could bench 200?

Oh, that's right. You were a teenager. Carry on.

Blogger Will said...
"Dave had heard from the friend of a friend of his brother's that a good ab workout was to stand against a solid wall, tighten your stomach muscles and let somebody punch you rapidly in the gut for a couple minutes"
This had me rolling. What was the theory behind this? Were the punches supposed to erode the fat away, leaving glistening muscle? Was the fat supposed to be compacted until it transmogrified into muscle?

Blogger DC said...

We hated Larry back then, and apparently, we continue to hate him even as he's on the throes of retirement. On the other hand, Knicks fans hated Reggie and MJ, but gave them both a standing O when they were about to retire. Not sure why it's different in both cases. Maybe it's because the Braves are actually in first place once again.

BTW, I'm actually semi-happy that the Braves are in first again. We hated them back in the 90s because they always seemed to be unbeatable for us, and we could never get first place in the NL East. On the other hand, they're the lesser of two evils because they don't even have that many fans at their home games. So, with geography also playing a role, we never saw their fans at Shea. The Phillies fans, on the other hand, are not only close to NYC to visit their team at Citifield, but have this inferiority complex that makes them the worst fans I've ever seen. I've honestly never hated another team's fans more until the Phillies won a championship, not even Yankees or Red Sox fans. Phillies fans just reeked of obnoxiousness after that.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
I also noticed my CPU stuck at 50% on iexplore.exe, I'll check it out when I get home.

Blogger Japes said...
LOL on trying to lift 200 lbs on your first attempt. It's a good thing you survived that little ordeal or else this site might not exist, haha.

I remember that game! I won $50 from my friend because I kept betting on the Celtics. I remember the celts being down by like 10 with a minute left. I bet him that the $10 that the Celts would catch up. Then I bet him $20 that Bird would hit the game tying 3. Then another $20 that the Celts would win in OT. Good times, good times.

Blogger Siddarth Sharma said...
I used to tummy punch, myself, to strengthen my abs. It makes some sense.

Regarding ovations, Iverson got ovations from opposing fans quite often.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Will wins for the use of "transmogrified."

MJ and Reggie were cheered because they were fierce, unabashed competitors. They didn't spend hours stroking themselves (MJ had others do it), and even on their bad days they still were intense. They were enemies to respect. Much like Clyde.

It saddens me that Chipper Jones got booed. He has class.

NY cheered LeBron for Free Taco Excitement.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
""Dave had heard from the friend of a friend of his brother's that a good ab workout was to stand against a solid wall, tighten your stomach muscles and let somebody punch you rapidly in the gut for a couple minutes"
This had me rolling. What was the theory behind this? Were the punches supposed to erode the fat away, leaving glistening muscle? Was the fat supposed to be compacted until it transmogrified into muscle?"

it forces you to tighten your stomach muscles. like how boxers lie on the floor and someone throws a medicine ball onto their stomach. but more realistically, he just wanted an excuse to punch him.

Blogger chris said...
Dan B.: The bored kids in the Simmons parody look like they're having much more fun than in the genuine Indigestion.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Wow, is Big Z to Miami a done deal? Random fact: KINGJAMES twitter reported the news exactly 2 minutes after this article was published.

So that's:

PG: Chalmers/Wade?
SG: Wade/Miller
SF: LeBron/Miller
PF: Bosh/Haslem
C: Joel Anthony/Big Z/Haslem?

with 4 2nd round draft picks if they should so choose. Only DaSean Butler has a decent chance to not suck and get time, but that's the 12 roster spots. Good lord I can't believe they managed to pull together an actual team looking thing. Next year they can spend an MLE and BAE (assuming no lockout and no major change to the CBA), and can only get better (pending egos).

My word verification is "gimprick", which sounds like an insult Clevelanders were spouting these past few days.

Blogger Andrei said...
Looks like Kahn is sending Al Jefferson to the Jazz for free. Way to manage your assets David. If the Wolves were worried about lack of size with Jefferson and Love, what are they going to do with Love and Beasley?
If Stern is interested in raising the competitiveness of the league as he mentioned in his press conference yesterday, part of the next collective bargaining agreement should have a clause that every team is required to have a competent GM. Make them all take a Wonderlic test for GMs where alongside logic puzzles they also have to find solutions for cap problems. Also, make the results public so at least we have specific ways to quantify Kahn's stupidity.

Blogger lordhenry said...
I considered it, but the epic number of comments on last week's post really seemed to address everything. I'm not sure what's left to say at this point. The facts:

"1. LeBron is a big douche.

2. That said, he didn't "owe" Cleveland (or anybody else) anything.

3. Whether you're rooting for them, against them, or just wondering if they can share one basketball, watching the Heat next season (and beyond) will be fascinating NBA theater."

Damn, I think that is the most disappointing thing I have ever read on this site, including the famous "Kobe Fail" demotivator from the 2008 finals which the Lakers lost and I am a Laker fan.

I get that there aren't too many areas on the "Lecision" that have not been covered, and I get that you are focused on the pick-up diaries, but I was REALLY, REALLY looking forward to your thoughts on what Lebron did to cleveland, and it's effects on the NBA.

All I get from ESPN is an endless parade of "Articles" defending Lebron James and how this is no different than when Moses Malone went to Philly, or when Sir Charles jojned the Rockets to play with Drexler and Hakeem. It is very different---those guys didn't leave their team hanging for the first week of free agency, lead them to believe they had a shot at keeping them, and then create an hour long tv special to jab into their former teams face.

All I get at ESPN is the endless Nike hype machine acting like the NBA fans are a$$holes for having an issue with what he did, for having an issue with the whole narcissitic episode that was the "Lecision" and for having the gall to complain about it in general.

Only Tim Legler and Michael Wilbon have had the cojones to even moderately criticize how the events of thursday night went down.

I'm not a Lebron or Cleveland fan, I just thought the whole thing was terrible. I was really hoping to get an "unfiltered" view of what happened here, since even over at Forum Blue and Gold I can't even get a whole lot. I get that Lebron is not obligated to sign with Cleveland, but what about leaving on decent terms?

I still love the site and appreciate all the extra hours you spend writing great material for everyone to read (especially during the summer) but I am pretty disappointed that there will be no comments at all on the whole situation. I probably respect your opinion more than anyone I read that writes basketball articles, and was really wanting your take on all this.

Blogger nvnv said...
I'm also getting the firefox failure/redirect. But I'll keep reading the site anyway (use explorer ugh) because I'm from Cleveland and am used to failure/redirection.

Blogger lordhenry said...
I think my last post was too damn big to get up here, so I will just reiterate that I really respect Basketbawful's opinion, and really wanted to read about him firing off on the whole Lecision thing. ESPN right now is nothing but a bunch of shameless defending and as Hitler would say, "Nut-hugging and Dick-riding"

Oh, well, I'm a Kobe fan, so I kinda like that Kobe's rival has kinda wet the bed and hurt his image. Unforuntately, I don't think it is very good for the NBA.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
please write more pick up diaries. please please please. i don't want to hear about how much you think lebron james sucks. i can get that anywhere. if you're going to write an article about lebron james, instead write the next chapter of pick up diaries. i am so sick of hearing about lebron and all the clever LeWords people make up. please i beg of you, you are my only hope, i cannot handle much more...

Blogger Dan B. said...
Anonymous -- I'm right there with you. I had my fill of the LeBron saga before they even aired The Decision!

Blogger lordhenry said...
Well, I guess I am all alone in this. Oh, well. I understand everyone being sick of it, I just wanted Bawful's two cents, but I'm sure there is fear that if too much is said the Sternstapo will show up and pack up this nice lil blog, and that would deprive the rest of the world of basketbawful, and we can't have that. I'll go back to ESPN and wait for baseball season to end.....

Blogger lakersfoolsgold said...
just want to say that i'm digging this series of articles on your youth and how you came to express yourself. it's interesting.

Blogger lakersfoolsgold said...
knicks fans actually chanted MVP at kobe a few days before lebron was there when he went double nickle or was it 62? whatever the scoring record at the garden now is

Anonymous caseta said...

Unforuntately, I don't think it is very good for the NBA.

It's really endearing how lots of Bulls, Knicks, Lakers, Celtics and Magic fans "don't think this is good for the NBA". How sweet of them to care about the league all of a sudden.

Something tells me Bulls fans would say it's a great thing for the NBA if they were to have Lebron and Wade. Ditto for Knicks fans. As for whining fans of the Lakers and Celtics (Bill Simmons, that's you), I'm sure your worries have nothing to do with the fact that now there's a real rival for the Lakers in the East or that this basically ends any shot the current Celtics might have had at another title, right ? You're all selflessly thinking about the NBA, poor thing.

Just FYI: the NBA did best financially when there were a few powerhouses, NOT when talent was more evenly distributed and there were more teams with chances to contend. And I think the best ratings ever came when one team was utterly dominating the league.

Anonymous Stockton said...
Not good for the NBA are those Ilgauska's deals (Cavs/Bullets).

Well, the Jefferson/Koufos trade is... GREAT MOVE/FU##ING ROBBERY (choose correct answer)

Anonymous Barry said...
I'm actually quite indifferent to this whole LeBron thing now. I mean I thought it was kind of cool that they are forming some sort of super-team, despite them being in the same conference as my beloved Beantown. Makes things a lot more interesting in the East, although severely diminishing our chances for another Finals run.

I'm more "upset" how people reacted to it, really.

Anonymous Karc said...


It's just one man's opinion, of course...

Blogger Basketbawful said...
lordhenry -- I'm sorry to disappoint you. Seriously.

For whatever reason, I just felt worn out by the whole LeBron-a-thon. His "The Decision" special was the single biggest, meanest, most cruel bitchslaps to a fan base I've ever seen. It was like televising a rape. I hated it.

But at the end of the day, I simply didn't feel like I had anything to add to the amazing media backlash that happened. The comments, the articles, the Comic Sans letter from Dan Gilbert.

Typically, I try to use Basketbawful to provide people with something different than what they can get anywhere else. But the whole experience left me feeling strangely empty.

Blogger b r christensen said...
Cleveland is the guy whose girl starts going out with "work friends" all the time and talking about how she needs time to figure out who she is, then Cleveland is shocked when she breaks up with him and devastated when she starts dating another dude.

The 3 year contract was the writing on the wall. Toronto read it, hell, even Miami read it and got ready for it, but now LeBron is the selfish whore who broke your heart?

As a Jazz fan I will be sad, but not shocked or betrayed if D-Will doesn't re-up. But then again, I'm sort of a John Montgomery Ward man. . . .

Blogger JimmySlattery said...
Whoever 44 is on the Celts, the guy who gets the long pass from Larry after the Buck Williams jam, he takes about five steps before the layup. I wasn't watching the league in them days - did anyone pitch a fit?