I first fell in love with basketball when I turned six years old. The Harlem Globetrotters always make their yearly Pittsburgh appearance around the time of my birthday (December 30th), and one of the gifts for my sixth birthday was a trip downtown to the Civic Arena to see them.
From that moment on, I’ve been infatuated with basketball. As a kid, I’d play for hours a day; shooting by myself, practicing Tim Hardaway’s UTEP Two Step, challenging anybody — peers, old people, firemen — to any type of basketball-related game. When I wasn’t playing I was reading Street and Smiths, Hoop Magazines, and Basketball Digests, collecting basketball cards, watching games on TBS and NBC, and buying USA Todays to check NBA box scores because the local papers wouldn’t have them.
This love continued through my adolescence and teen years, a love that cultivated a basketball talent that people began to recognize. I starred on my middle school, AAU, and high school teams, and was good enough to receive about a dozen or so full scholarship offers.
And, while many of my friends — people who also received basketball scholarships — have mentioned that college was the place where basketball stopped being fun and started being a job, I didn’t have that experience. I still loved it as much as I did when I ws eight.
It still hasn’t dissipated. Although my schedule just doesn’t allow me to play as much as I used to, I do make certain that I make room to play at least twice a week. I also have the NBA pass, the NBA broadband pass, a subscription to ESPN.com just so I can read the insider NBA articles, and I spend much of my free time online reading and watching basketball. In fact, as I’m writing this, I have another window open to a YouTube mixtape of some high school point guard from Florida.
Now, my love for basketball seems to contradict the theory that everything males do has some relationship to sex and sexual access. I started playing when I was six, back when the only thing I knew about girls was that they (usually) smelled good, drank a lot of milk, and had separate bathrooms. The love that grew was a genuine love, an adoration that had nothing to do with anything other than how much I loved everything about the game. I didn’t spent countless hours at the park because girls where there. In fact, there’d be days when I’d go hours without seeing anyone else there. I did it because I loved to do it.
Even today, as that love has continued to flourish, women don’t factor in at all to this equation. I mean, I’m not exactly sure what (some) women find attractive in me, but I’m pretty sure that the idea of me sitting on my laptop, scratching my balls and reading some 5,000 word long deconstruction of Paul Pierce’s post moves isn’t getting them all hot and bothered
But, rewinding back to my 6th birthday, can I say with all certainty that I didn’t pick up on the fact that people — men and women — seemed to think that people who were really good at basketball were also really cool? No, I can’t. I also can’t dismiss the possibility that realizing basketball was a “cool” hobby to have — as opposed to, I don’t know, worm collecting — “helped” me fall in love with it even more.
Was “If I get good at this, people will like me a lot. And, girls like guys who people like a lot” a conscious thought? Of course not. Any serious athlete can easily pinpoint the people who only play because they think it’s cool, and I definitely wasn’t one of them. But, I do think that the status given to guys who are good at it was on my mind on some subconscious level. I played it, read about it, watched it, talked about it, and thought about it because I loved it, but part of the reason why I loved it was because some part of me knew that loving it would reap benefits.
Now, my relationship with basketball is just one example, my example. But, I don’t think it’s really all that different than similar relationships men have with playing an instrument or traveling or entrepreneurship or climbing Mt. Everest or, shit, founding a blog — all things that have absolutely nothing to do with sex. We do these things because we genuinely love them and genuinely enjoy doing them.
But, while (most) guys who climb mountains don’t climb mountains because they heard there was some p*ssy up there, when the urge to climb first sprung in his mind, its continued cultivation was probably at least partially due to the fact that the mountain climber felt that the type of women (or men) he wanted sexual access to are into the type of men who would climb a mountain.
For men, is everything always really just about sex? Eh, not really. But, it kinda, sorta is. Sorry Harlem Globetrotters. It never really was about you.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)