Game On!

Game On!

Bringing the locker room into the consulting room

By Barry Jacobs

May/June 2010

In the parlance of the game, the guy is brutalizing me under the boards. When Lou, a burly 19-year-old, whips his elbow into my chest, I lurch backward like a drunk. When he swings his rump against my hip, I go spinning out of bounds into the wall. He lays the basketball through the rim and glances back at me with teeth bared. I curse under my breath. At age 50, I shouldn't feel the need to prove myself against some brash, buff kid. As I hustle down to the other end of the court, however, I call for the ball.

This isn't just about hoops. It's about answering the questions that press on me daily: What am I capable of doing? Will I make a mark or leave no trace? Will I help my team or feel humiliated? After 40 years of dribbling and driving, dishing and shooting, I have few illusions about being a superstar, a.k.a. "the man." I aspire to just being a competent man. Some days, even that seems unattainable. In my middle-aged years, in the twilight of my playing, my career as a psychotherapist is a slow grind and my family life is built on compromises. The game of basketball, with its stark, decisive moments, seems a surer test of my worth.

My teammates swing the ball from side to side before hitting me with a bounce pass to the left of the foul lane. Twice before in this game, I've sunk 17-foot bank shots from that spot; Lou will expect me to shoot another. Instead, I fake the jumper and dribble quickly past him before extending my right arm with the ball on my…

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