In basketball we often utilize a "record" to quantify and qualify a team’s success. I believe this form of ranking is needed for the sake of competition and appease our rational minds. Yet it offers a only small piece of information that comprises the culmination of moments in a basketball season. We have arrived at the half way point of the season, as the Brampton A's our record indicates that we are 15-6 and have had a successful season by all accounts. We have had numerous comeback wins, a few convincing blowouts, and several down the stretch victories that have us convinced we can win every time we step on the court. What more interesting to me is how the identity of our team has developed over this period of time.
We came into this season with a unique philosophy, one that is seemingly contradictory in the highly competitive world of sports. While other teams emphasized the importance of winning, we focused on playing together and having fun. In a game currently dominated by the pick and roll offensive we chose to run infinity dedicated to getting everyone involved and in tune. We committed to playing for one another and the development of our identity. We chose to see basketball as it is, a game invented to be enjoyed by the players and fans, and it made all the difference.
However somewhere along the way there was a shift. It started when we began to win. With the wins came a perceived external pressure to win more. Games became less about playing and having fun, and more about setting ourselves up with a suitable record heading into playoffs. Each loss was met with concern of where we stood in relation to other teams, and doubt of whether or not we were on the right path. We had begun to gravitate away from our identity and in doing so lost the passion that had made us unique and successful.
It can be easy to become caught up in winning and losing, as most of the world is. Riding the highs of a win and the lows of a loss as if it defined who we are as men. When attention is centered on the finite victory of a single game one can lose sight of the greater picture which is the development of each individual and the entire team. To me the greatest victory is evolution, transcending the limitations of what has been done by elevating ourselves and the game we play to a higher state. The higher state being one of pure Joy. When we are playing in Joy, we are unstoppable. We have seen what it looks like, the seamless flow of infinity, extra passes, stifling team defense all executed with an expression of authentic passion and joy that unites our team and dismantles opponents. It would be easy for us to succumb to external pressures and move away from what we do. But that is not who we are. We are too blessed, too talented, and too determined to be like everyone else. We are the Brampton A's.
I wish I had kept a journal. I mean how hard is it to write a few sentences a day? Certainly easier than trying to digest 8 months in a single sitting I think as I sit 35,000 feet over the Artic. Just as we cut our food into smaller bites, a journal serves as a way for us to chew and taste moments of the day before being swallowed by the subconscious to digest. My plate of memories is full at the moment. With this paper and pen acting as my fork and knife, I hope to sink into this massive meal and derive the nutrients of the lessons learned.
My journey began with a leap of faith. Without a job, agent, or plan, I bought a one-way ticket to Luxembourg. That ticket turned into an 8-month adventure, spanning 6 countries, 2 teams, and countless enriching encounters. By no means was the journey easy. But it had a certain flow. It seemed that each set back was a set up for something even greater. I call this feeling being IN. When the world seems to move to make things work for you. It wasn’t until I left my comfort zone and stepped into the unknown was I really able to experience this sensation of being moved by something greater. Coming to this understanding was the most empowering insight of my journey.
I soon learned being in the right place at the right time is not enough. It is one thing to be there, it is another thing to shine. Stats and success overseas do not come cheap. Everyone wants them and there is only one bucket up for grabs each possession. One must implement their will play after play, game after game, if they wish to attain the type of numbers that will advance their career. All while playing within a team concept and generating the most valuable stat of all, the W. Being passive at times did not serve my team or me well. There is no time in a game to lose confidence or become disengaged. Over the season I developed a strategy how to adjust and stay dialed in and as a result my numbers improved towards the end of the year.
My team in Germany went 2-28. Personally I am not a fan of losing nor am I used to it. Dealing with losses on this scale was a challenge to say the least. I had to redefine my definition of success both on a personal and collective level or I would have lost my heart and mind. I came to see that each possession as a game. You can have dozens of small victories in a game and still fall short in the end. If you break the game down into these small moments, it becomes less about the wins and losses and more about learning. I also realized that if we weren’t going to win, we at least should be entertaining. The court is a 94-foot stage. Fans come to games to be entertained. As an entertainer, I should learn what the audience likes to see. Our fans wanted to see us battle. To dive on the floor for loose balls, play hard defense, rebound, and attack. No matter the score of the game, I did my best to keep our fans entertained because they deserved it. Despite our dismal record, they remained encouraging and optimistic throughout the season. What more could you ask for?
Basketball is my job. But it is not who I am. I love traveling and having new experiences. I believe if you want to grow as a person, sometimes you have to let you down your walls and get naked. Literally. On an off day I went to a Sauna to recover from a game and excessive amount of Kolsch from the previous night. After changing into my suit I went into the Sauna area and couldn’t believe my eyes. Men and women of all ages were swimming, steaming, and taking saunas together. Naked. Personally, I don’t have a problem being naked, and consider myself to be comfortable in my body. But here I felt like a pubescent teenager. Being in the nude around all these strangers was a trip. At first, then it felt pretty cool. I noticed how people seemed indifferent to being naked and was respectful of everyone around. This would never fly in the US as our collective maturity around nudity and sex is that of a 12-year-old boy. The US is still in its infancy, while Germany has survived empires, tyrants, and world wars. Like a middle-aged man who has passed through their darkest days, Germany as a nation, carry itself like one who has dwelled in darkness and returned to the light with hard earned wisdom. By means are they a perfect society but they care about their people. From the way they chose to take in Syrian refugees, to their universal health care, the German system is designed to support their citizens. I hope that one day soon we in the US can learn from our elders.
I am an optimist by nature. I believe people are inherently good and positive vibes will conquer all. I also believe that there are openings for adventure every day. A window in time opens and a portal into the unknown appears. If we are quiet enough, we can feel a pull, a gravity drawing us towards the spontaneous. The more we say yes to these opportunities, the more fulfilled we become. Some of my fondest memories began with a simple hello to a complete stranger, or saying yes to a $7 bus to Berlin on a whim. Not all ended how I imagined but they all left an impression that will serve my highest fulfillment. I am grateful for every connection I made this past year, big or small. So many amazing people contributed to this experience and without you it would not have been the same. To express this I hope to put all I have learned into action. A big summer of growth and adventure lies right around the corner but for now, I’ll sit here and soak up the juices of a journey well lived.