Tensions were running high in the St. Patrick High School Gymnasium. Parents were standing up, demonstrating a pretentious knowledge of the sport by screaming obvious instructions to their kids. “ Hustle, Timmy!”, “ Rebound!”, “ Shoot it Bobby!” All of the coaches were out of their seats, loudly pointing out imperfections in their respective offenses and defenses, hoping that the players would hear the criticisms and correct their actions on ensuing possessions. I could see my coach’s deep absorption in the game, his mind racing as he continuously shifted his plan of attack for our team. Next to the coaches sat the reserve players, ready to be substituted into the action when one of the starting players got tired or began to play poorly. Nearly every team member not in the game was either leaning forward in his seat, intrigued by the game unfolding in front of him, or slumped back in his chair, reflecting on his performance in the game so far and preparing a strategy for when he was substituted back in. I could see that everyone, from the parents to the players to the coaches, was fully engaged with the events occurring on the basketball court. That is, everyone except me.
At the far end of the bench, in the very last seat, away from teammates, coaches, fans, and directly adjacent to the water cooler sat me, completely apathetic to the surrounding atmosphere. Although I had got ample minutes in the match earlier that day, during this game, I would receive exactly zero minutes and zero seconds of playing time. Sitting on the bench, watching the game unfold in front of me, I began to reflect on my position on the team. Why wasn’t I getting in the game? Did the coaches forget about me, or was I just not good enough? I knew I wasn’t the worst player on the team, and I probably deserved to get some playing time based on my performance in practice, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Not today, at least.
The score of the game didn’t matter to me, because I wasn’t in the game. I was not contributing to the team at all. I was simply an extra body taking up a seat on the bench. I wasn’t conversing with teammates. I had no interest in cheering anybody on. I felt as if I could have walked out of the gym and nobody would have noticed. I started thinking about homework assignments I had to complete and how much I would rather be doing those than sitting on this bench. Even after the game ended with a heartbreaking loss from a buzzer beater by the other team, I couldn’t wrustle up any feelings of disappointment. The locker room was a scene of sullen temperaments. Everyone was sulking, completely dejected, and I couldn’t blame them. They had contributed to the loss. I had not, therefore I could not share in the emotional letdown. At this moment, I realized that, after devoting years of my life to playing basketball, I just didn’t care any more.