Fan Appreciation Week is finally here and I figuratively couldn’t be more excited. When I asked the Trillion Man March to send in benchwarming stories, I was pretty certain that I would only get five stories and three of them would be from people I know personally. After all, as one member of the TMM explained to me, if you really do embrace the benchwarmer mentality you’d be too lazy to take the time to write about your shortcomings in the first place. Touché. Still, I ended up getting over 80 stories, all of which were entertaining to some degree. The people who sent in stories ranged from a 53-year-old man to a 17-year-old girl. Some people even sent in stories from foreign countries such as New Zealand, Canada, and South Dakota. All in all, I was very impressed with the stories (I personally read every word of every one) and really did struggle in picking out the top seven. If it turns out that I didn’t pick yours, just convince yourself that you actually kind of won because this is yet another instance of you riding the bench in life.
With that being said, the following is what I perceived to be the seventh best story that was submitted. If you don’t like it, don’t worry because there’s a better one coming tomorrow. If you do like it, be excited that there’s an even better one coming tomorrow. Either way, here’s a look into Zac Jackson's life as a benchwarmer.
All I ever wanted to do was be a basketball star.
Sure, I also wanted to one day be president of the Los Angeles Lakers, unseat Vince McMahon as president/announcer for the WWF, get married to my sixth-grade girlfriend and eventually host the 6 p.m. SportsCenter. But my first goal was to be the biggest star point guard little Manchester High School had ever seen.
I shot free throws in my driveway all day. I watched basketball on TV all night. I remember watching a young Chris Fowler host a show on ESPN called “Scholastic Sports America” featuring Jason Kidd and believing that some day I would be so good that ESPN would send its cameras to Manchester to film me. To talk to me. To let me share my greatness with the rest of the world, because everybody was watching Scholastic Sports America, right?
Turns out I wasn’t that good. Several not-so-funny things happened on my way to the NBA, including me not working hard enough, other kids stealing the ball from me, my own father telling me I sucked, my coach keeping me on the bench because I was too short to see over the halfcourt trap defenses the other teams kept throwing at me, and me making 90 straight free throws in practice but always missing the ones I shot in the game. Truth is the only crunch-time baskets I ever made in my life came in my driveway while playing one-on-one against my brother.
When I was 11 and he was 4.
So even though I adjusted and tempered my goals, I was still convinced I’d make it in basketball. I knew one day my high school girlfriend would have big boobs and wear my letterman’s jacket around town, and that was OK because I’d have a fancy Manchester Basketball sweatsuit to wear with a necklace and my number, 11, as the charm. Man I worshipped the older guys who did that. I knew someday I’d own the Manchester assist record, play in college and just generally be awesome at life.
Things didn’t quite work out that way, but I think I eventually became pretty good at being a benchwarmer – so good that all these years later I can take this opportunity to claim I was a better benchwarmer than you. Listen, your blog is great. Your jokes are great. You’ve carved quite a niche, and I’ve enjoyed reliving some of my youth (that’s what washed up American males such as myself love to do more than anything) through your exploits.
But you were not a better benchwarmer than I was, and I’ve broken down our matchup below. Our rivalry begins now.
THE EARLY DAYS: There was a time when I truly thought I was the greatest sixth-grade basketball player in America. Maybe I was. I scored off the bounce, in the lane, from well beyond the arc and played two or three steps ahead of most other kids. What eventually started to happen is the other kids started not only learning how to play, but also growing muscles and hair on their legs and upper lips. It seemed like every game I was a bit weaker, another half-step behind, etc. And I was. I still made the team when I got older because I knew the game, dated the head coach’s daughter (the smart take from the strong) and could make a wide-open 3-pointer, but I wasn’t any good. From your stories, I’ve come to learn that you hit puberty at age 8 (or 9 years earlier than I did) and only dominated on the local basketball floors because the other kids couldn’t physically keep up with you. Ho hum, ho hum.
SUPPORTING CAST: My Manchester High teammates were good guys and great friends, but they never were anything too special. They’re all successful now, but nobody’s really rich, has a really hot wife or a really awesome kind of drug problem. My favorite teammate was this white guy named Dane who not only never passed the ball (even when quadruple teamed) but sported a curly little afro, bobbed his head from side to side when he walked and off the court wore a Mr. T Starter Kit around his neck and on top of his tight black t-shirt. No lie. You not only get to play with a big-time NBA prospect in Evan Turner, but you coined an outstanding nickname for him (The Villain) and have a dedicated army of Trillionaires willing to help you ruin his day at a moment’s notice. Plus, you’ve played with a ton of other big-time players who may not ever let you inside their inner circles, but have made you good enough and let you close enough that you’ll be making occasional appearances on Sports Century and absolutely dominating church league play a year from now like The Villain will be dominating the likes of Gardner Webb and Fort Wayne State a month from now.
DURING PRACTICE: My fellow benchwarmers and I called ourselves the Scrub Club and we always enjoyed standing in the same spot against the stage during practice while the starters got their run. My friend Joe and I would stand there and jokingly trash the coach for keeping us on the bench when we had talent to be McDonald’s All Americans, something I’d aimed to be since those early SSA episodes with Chris Fowler. Since our All-American Days ended Joe and I have combined to put on 170 pounds and make it to our 30s unmarried, uninteresting and still telling high school basketball stories when we do get together. Now we get winded just watching basketball. I’ve never seen what you do in practice, but I’d imagine it goes like this: Make a joke most of the team doesn’t understand, make a fart noise, get swatted by Dallas Lauderdale, get funny looks from The Villain, make the coaches rue the day they let you walk on, repeat process next practice.
EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: If my quickly-failing memory serves me correctly, one of our rival schools, Tuslaw, had the hottest cheerleaders around. I was particularly in love with one named Kristen Kidd (and I very much enjoyed my extended time on the bench allowed me to stare at her). I believe I gave her my pager number once, but almost 12 years later she’s yet to find the time to call me. You, on the other hand, had a relationship with Erin Andrews. Come to think of it, I never got ANY girl to ever call me back until I started listening to country music. You were way ahead of me on that one. Plus, I still wear a pager.
SIDELINE OBSERVATIONS: I stayed in the game, calling out plays the other team would run and answering any questions my coach might have had. Sadly, he didn’t ask “would you like to go in?” very often. I have this sick photographic memory, too, which helped me remember what certain opponents liked to do in certain situations. Today, when I run into someone our team used to play against in a personal or professional setting, I almost always remember him and what kind of player he was. Just the other night some guy in the bar told me had 17 points and 11 rebounds against us our junior year. He was lying through his recently-bleached teeth, but if 12 years later he needs that to redeem himself, who am I to cut him down? You stare down cheerleaders, fumble with a towel and try to get on camera. I don’t see much help to the team there.
ON-COURT CONTRIBUTIONS: Knowing my time on the court was going to be short, I always launched a long 3-pointer as soon as I got in the game. Not many of them went in, but I wasn’t deterred. On senior night I got the ball with about 8 seconds left and our team up by a bunch. I dribbled the length of the court and –despite being about 5-foot-9 – leapt off one foot and attempted a tomahawk dunk. My vertical wasn’t any more than 15 inches, but my arms were long enough to reach the rim. I slammed the ball into the front of the rim and fell backwards, sending the ball to the roof while everyone in the gym laughed like crazy. Except my head coach. You? Your whole goal is to record a trillion, which means avoiding recordable action of any sort. Nice blog name, terrible way to play.
APPEARANCE: These days I’m overweight, out of shape and battling several addictions and afflictions including a bad back and excess ear wax. Back then I was scary skinny, lacking muscle definition and always had the same buzzcut on my disproportionately large head. You may not be pulling the most beautiful ladies on campus, Titus, but you’re in shape and you can grow the type of mustache in a week that I couldn’t grow in a year. Plus, you get to stroll in around in a different Nike, Ohio State Basketball sweatsuit every day and I have to dress like a grown up five or six days a week.
POSTSCRIPT: The Manchester assist record is now held by someone named Jackson, but it’s my little brother. We never won any championships. I never got a letterman’s jacket or a big-busted girlfriend, and I’m now the absolute last pick in the gym when I make my twice-annual appearances at the local old man’s open gym. Sticking with basketball at THE Ohio State University has allowed you to see the country on someone else’s dime, do Bill Simmons podcasts, hang out with Greg Oden, jump around elevators in fancy Minneapolis hotels and give ultra-uptight NCAA people even more reasons to be ultra uptight. More than anything, you’ve let a star-obsessed culture know that walk-ons are people, too. Well done, sir.
CLOSING CEREMONIES: In the four or so minutes I got to play on senior night, I threw an alley-oop from halfcourt for a two-handed dunk to my good friend Justin and I tried that dunk of my own. When I fell back on my head just after my dunk attempt and had my moment of clarity/reflection while staring at the ceiling, I realized that I’d failed to become The Guy That Every Little Kid In My Town Looked Up To because of basketball; strangely, I was very much at peace with that. Now some of the younger guys who were wide-eyed kids at that game still know me as The One Goofball Who Tried To Dunk, and to that I say, hey, I might as well be remembered for something. You, on the other hand, won’t even get in a game this year because Coach Matta is scared of what you might write about it. Sure, you’ll get a big cheer from the crowd on your senior night and give that stupid-looking smile you give every time the cameras come around, but will your parents really be proud?
Final tally: Me 5, You 4.
Keep up the good work, Titus. But consider yourself dunked on.
Streak for the Cash Group Leader: T. Rittenhouse, and T. Roche (streaks of 15)
Streak for the Cash Group Loser: J. Lee (streak of 11)
Your awesome YouTube was sent in to me by Taylor W. There’s your shout-out, Taylor. And here’s your video.
Your Friend and My Favorite,
Club Trillion Founder