by Mave Deltzer
Here you had a tale of two age groups. The young cousins were both under the age of 21, while the older cousin and uncle were both out of their 20’s. While Garrett and Davey had age playing in their court, Mike and Gary had experience, strength, and Gary’s obsession for Togos sandwich number 9. The obsession probably outweighed everything else by a mile. Garrett and Davey had never seen a man play with so much passion before. Gary was all over the place. He was double teaming, rebounding, scoring, and doing everything it took to win that ball game. As Garrett noticed throughout the game, he simply couldn’t keep up with his older uncle. Gary had a strategy to rough up both of his younger nephews, using his strength and also incorporated the strategy of his Lincoln High School football experience.
As Garrett made a quick dash towards the hoop, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man coming near him at lightning speed. What was once an easy lay up turned out to be the second best defensive play of the day. You noticed the word second. The best was yet to come. Gary was beat on the play and as Garrett turned the corner to score the bucket, Gary got in his old running back stance and pretended to then carry an imaginary football in his arms. He then flew towards the rim, blocked Garrett’s shot and then finished off the play by patting his imaginary lineman on the butt. He was having flashbacks of his high school football career and using it to better his basketball game.
Mike wasn’t chopped liver. He was brutalizing his young cousin Davey, by not only picking his pocket, but also by taking him to the hole at will. But there was one problem. Mike couldn’t make lay ups. Mike would take a lightning quick first step to get to the basket, but then miss the lay up. And this wasn’t just any old miss. Usually when one misses a lay up, the ball hits off the backboard and doesn’t bounce too far away. You see, Mike saw himself as a Japanese Michael Jordan. He was a good 11 inches shorter than the real Michael Jordan, but Mike would try and emulate Jordan’s flying style anyway. He would take off from the free throw line like Jordan would. While Jordan used his 6’6’‘ wirey frame and awesome jumping skills to glide to the basket, Mike’s flying was more of a takeoff and then immediate land. There wasn’t much gliding in the air here. Thus, Mike would be further away from the basket than someone who would usually shoot a lay up and the ball would richochet hard off the backboard. This consistency in erroneous lay up shooting was all the break that Garrett and Davey needed.
Young Davey was having a really hard time backing up his early smack talk. While an athletic teen, Davey didn’t have any formal basketball training. He didn’t know how to set up his elder relatives in ways that could’ve helped his team win. And it wasn’t his fault. He simply was never taught the game like the other three were. But he was still very athletic for his age and was doing his best to hold his own. Garrett knew that he would have to score most of their points after watching how rough they were playing with his young cousin. They were playing for blood. And Togos.
The game was close in the beginning. It was a single game and the first team to eleven points was the winner. The youngsters started out fresh, and maybe a little slightly overconfident. They figured that they had the juice in their legs to run circles around the old men. They had the team chemistry; they knew where each other was going to be. And most importantly, they had just watched Rocky the night before. It was an inspiration to say the least. Gonna Fly Now was playing continuously on loop in their heads and they were floating on the court. Then came reality. As the score was tied at 2, the old men turned into thoroughbreds. They began to work the two youngsters. Everytime Gary would get tired, Michael would pull out the remnants of an old piece of Togos paper that they use to wrap the sandwiches in. He would pull it out of his bag, run it under Gary’s nose, and like caffeine, it would rejuvenize Gary. They went on a nice run and scored the next five points. Garrett and Davey were no longer on top of the world. They were wondering what had just hit them.
The two teams traded the next four baskets and the score was 9-4 in favor of the old dudes. Then Garrett hit a hot streak. He used his signature move. He would start with the ball on the left wing. He would go right, beating Gary to a spot in the middle of the key and when Gary would start to catch up to him, Garrett would jump stop and the shot was off before Gary could get there. Gary had no choice but to turn around and box out. But the shot kept dropping.
Garrett reeled off the next three buckets and it was suddenly a ball game again. The score was 9-7. Davey had his confidence back and Garrett couldn’t be stopped. On the next possession, Garrett rebounded a Davey miss and was ready to put the ball back up to close in to within just one point. But Gary was too quick. He slapped the ball out of Garrett’s hands and it was now in Mike’s. He dribbled around young Davey, went to the hole, and then before he tried his floating lay up, he passed it off to Gary for the score. It was now game point and the old guys were winning, 10-7.
Gary wanted the ball for the game winner. He could taste his sandwich already. He took an imaginary bite and the flavor was just right. He tasted the peppered pastrami that was layered with lettuce. He chewed it, swishing around the juices in his mouth. It was eternal bliss, and with one more shot, it would be all over. But while he was swishing, Garrett stole the ball and found a wide open Davey for the basket. 10-8. And Gary didn’t know what had just hit him. The kids were back in it. They were tired. They were beaten. They were bruised. But they still had a shot. Garrett knew that he was going to be double teamed once he dribbled toward the basket. But he knew Davey had a renewed confidence and he could count on him for the basket. But they couldn’t count on what was just about to happen. Garrett beat Gary off the dribble and Mike came over to double team. Just as they had practiced, when the double team came, Davey cut towards the hoop. Garrett thought this was too easy and wondered why Mike double teamed so early. As he was about to throw the pass to Davey for the lay up, he noticed Mike was falling down. It was going to be an even easier bucket than first though. But, Mike wasn’t falling down, at least on accident. He got down on his hands and knees. As Davey got the ball and was going in for the lay up, Gary who was catching up on defense, took his left foot and planted it on the small of Mike’s back. He used Mike’s back as a launching pad and went up high in the air. As Davey went to shoot his lay up, he noticed Gary floating nearby. He could’ve passed it back out, but it was too late. Gary blocked the lay up attempt and the ball went off the backboard hard, right into Mike’s hands. Mike immediately hit a short jumper for the game winner. The old guys won, and Gary and Mike were ready to eat their sandwiches.
What was supposed to be a joyous occasion for the young cousins turned out to be a horrible afternoon. The once happy faces turned sad. The smiles turned into frowns. The body language was once vivrant. The heads were held up high. But replacing that, was sulking to go along with heads that were tilted towards the ground. As Gary and Mike celebrated, they noticed the youngsters taking the loss hard and actually felt sorry for them for about 5 seconds. And then Gary shouted, “I’m going to Togos! Yeah baby!”
The sandwiches were huge. The once huge egos were crushed. You saw one team eating as if they’d never eaten before in their life. The other team was looking at the holes inside of their wallets. The winners shared their sandwich. But it was the winner’s sandwich. The losers had to try to enjoy the winner’s sandwich. It wasn’t the same. As they munched on what was to them, a dry and bitter sandwich, Davey and Garrett looked into each other’s eyes and both had the same thought. Next year, things will be different.