The People You Meet During Pick-Up Sports


If you’re a sports fans, no matter how comfortable your couch or the size of your tv, you’ve felt the pull of the court or the field at some time.

There is within you that shouts “Hell, even I could do that!”

It might occur to you wxhile watching someone like Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins. As shot after shot fly about without any real danger of finding their way to the bottom of the net, the voice grows louder.

No matter that your highest level of sporting achievement is somewhere between recreational soccer or being a standout benchwarmer on your high school basketball team. You’ve got to get out there and add your contribution to the world of sport. Your uniform, a jersey that hasn’t seen the inside of a washing machine in half a decade. Your training routine, multiple applications of Icy/Hot. And your distinct battle cry, “I’ve got next.”

But who will join on your quest for athletic glory? Lucky for you, there’s plenty of other characters that are ready to join you on your noble quest. And they won’t look like background players in your average Powerade commercial either.

The Tactician

Who’s that guy that’s calling out plays and trying to set up zone defense as people stumble back down the court or pitch? It’s the Tactician. He’s the embodiment of the coach on the sideline, except in this case, there is no coach on the sideline. No matter what you’re doing, he’ll find a reason you shouldn’t be doing it. You’re out of position. He calls you on it. You didn’t time your run. He’ll let you know. Never mind the fact that there’s one constant with the Tactician–when you do make the correct play, he’ll screw up the pass. Which will also be your fault.


The Freshman

Did you just feel a breeze? That’s the Freshman beating you to a ball on the side-line. Or dunking on your head. He’s usually a high school student. He’s fresh at the beginning of the game. He’ll be fresh two hours later when all you’re feeling is a throbbing sensation in all your joints and a sneaking suspicion that one of your lungs has collapsed. There’s only one way to avoid the Freshman making you look bad and that’s by making sure you’re on his team.


The Flailer

Whether it’s with elbows in basketball or feet in soccer, the Flailer is an All-Star in annoyance. He’s the Dahntay Jones to your Kobe, dangerously edging underneath you as you rise two and a half inches for a jump shot. He’s always got a hand up in defense and it’s usually close enough for you to do a palm reading. On a breakaway in soccer, he’ll somehow get tangled up your jersey and put the brakes on your breakaway. In a hockey game, he’ll deliver at least one shot with a stick to your shin. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize the Flailer and it’s only because he appears so incompetent your eyes tell your mind that it’s all an act. Like Keyzer Soze, the most dangerous trick in the Flailer’s arsenal is convincing you that he doesn’t exist.


The Laggart

Despite your lifelong membership to Crunch Fitness, you’re not in shape. But the Laggart makes you look like an Iron Man contestant. You’ll find the Laggart somewhere around the midpoint of the court–where it’s that much easier to appear to be committed to defense. The moment the play switches from defense to offense though, the Laggart discovers a new zeal and passion for the game. He’s calling for the ball. Moving on offense. And he suddenly knows your name. But the moment play switches, he’s quieter than a member of Diddy’s entourage when the check comes. Oh sure, he’ll make the occasional stab at an offensive player who’s tearing through the field but it’s all for show. The Laggart ensures that you’re always facing a double team, when you’re on defense.


The All-Star

He’s rare in pickup sports. You’ll see him. But most of the time it’ll be from the side-lines. He outworks you. He outshoots you. He outsmarts you. And usually he does it with a smile on his face that, disarmingly, makes you, a member of the opposing team, want to help him succeed. You know you can’t beat him but if you’re nice to him, perhaps he’ll pick you up next time teams are formed. Yes, it’s dysfunctional behavior but if it means you have to change your name mentally to Chris Bosh for a day’s worth of playground glory, so be it.


The Enigma

He travels under many guises. He’ll be peripheral to the sport you’re playing but topic number one in the WTF category. He might appear at your soccer game clad in work boots, khakis, a dress shirt—wearing a pair of headphones that blare loud enough for you to catch the Adele track that’s scoring his non-participation participation. He’ll drift through the contest in such a way that you’ll think that you’re down a man and that he’s just a guy that’s cutting across the court or field mid-game on his way back to his job.


The Walking Wounded

His appearances are infrequent but always impactful. You can recognize him because he’s usually surrounded by a crowd. No, not of well-wishers. More likely, just guys that just want him to get off the field. They’ve seen this lowlight before. Sprained ankle. Tweaked hamstring. Back injury that flared up when he bricked a jump shot. The players know the drill. They just want him off the court so play can resume. But the Walking Wounded lives for this moment. It’s a badge of hobbling honor. He can return to the couch with pride knowing that the only thing stopping him is an injury bug. He’ll be back out on the court, flat on his back, in no time.



So which pickup sports type are you? Probably none, right? Unless you’re being honest with yourself and then, like Sybil and her multi-personalities, you’ve been all of them. The only way you haven’t been, is if you haven’t been out there. The words “we’ve got next” have never been truer.


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