Basketball: (n) a game played between two teams of five players in which goals are scored by throwing a ball through a netted hoopDictionary B

I was the fattest kid in my class.

It is a distinction without appreciation.

But I liked basketball.

I started playing it when I was seven years old with another kid who ended up being a champion at hoops. So I was fairly good–especially for a fat boy.

But I did not look like a basketball player. This was troublesome to folks–because talent needs more than ability. It requires a “look.”

Basketball players are meant to be tall and skinny.

I was 5 foot 11in every direction.

So when I joined the team there was a chuckle and a cynical ripple among my peers. When I competed, there was some amusement.

And when I made the first string, there were those who were astounded that there was nobody to beat me out, and grown-ups who thought I might run up and down the court and have a heart attack.

It’s been this way for me in everything in my life:

  • I am not an attractive man, so some of my friends thought I would never procure a woman.
  • I have short, stubby fingers, so most people thought it would be impossible for me to play piano.
  • I never went to college, so how do I have the audacity to compose and write?

More often than not, we require the “look” of basketball along with the skill.

And as fans, we often are not satisfied unless all the visuals are present … to accompany the slam dunk.


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dictionary with letter A

Apostle: (n.) 1. each of the twelve chief disciples of Jesus Christ. 2. an enthusiastic supporter of an idea or cause.

Titles are what non-talented people cling to in order to avoid being evaluated on the quality of their work.

You can tell exactly how useless these assigned names are by how popular they are in our present-day society, which seems to be stuck in the muck of ego, unable to maneuver in any direction.

I, too, am often asked to produce my running list of titles. These are supposed to be words that inform the hearer that I am worthy of being listened to and that I have jumped through enough hoops to be part of the circus.

I’ve even had people correct me when I’ve addressed them by their first name, to inform me that their title must be included–otherwise they have a sense of what we might call “nomenclature nakedness.”

So instead of granting people dignity and appreciation for their deeds, we bequeath them with titles.

And this is why the original apostles nearly suffocated the message of Jesus of Nazareth–because they spent most of their time sitting around discussing who was greater and who Jesus liked better. In the process they began to kiss up to the very same individuals who originally had crucified their Master.

Fortunately for us, they stopped being apostles and turned back into rag-tag fanatics.

Because I will tell you of a certainty, King George III was not impressed that Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea of electricity or had constructed a stove. He considered him a rebel and a rapscallion and was prepared to hang him.

And the American history books can be grateful that Mr. Franklin did not take offense, but agreed to don the role of rebel so that we might be free.

Titles frighten me. They assume that their mere inclusion should produce respect.

What should give us our respect is whether we follow through on what we say is truly important.



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dictionary with letter A

Ankle: (n.) the narrow part of the body, including a joint, between the foot and the calf.

During a six month period at age twenty, I sprained my ankle about five times. It was brought about by a natural imbalance.

I was a healthy, energetic and semi-athletic fat boy who believed I could move with the grace and ease of my skinnier counterparts, only to discover that my obesity played out whenever my ankle would step in the wrong direction and twist.

It made me so mad. I kept re-injuring the same ankle over and over again–my left one.

The first time I banged it up was caused by stepping down from a bus into a gopher hole, turning the ankle so badly that I was convinced that the bottom of my shoe touched my shin. Unfortunately, I had plans to go on a weekend trip which I refused to cancel, so when the ankle on my already-chubby leg grew to the size of a tree trunk, I insisted on walking on it and continuing my plans with friends, even though moving a mere twenty yards took me about thirty minutes.

I didn’t care. I was young, stubborn and determined to continue my quest for invincibility.

So the ankle tried to heal, and then because I went out to play football or shoot some hoops, it got bent again.

Honestly, I don’t know when it stopped being susceptible to injury, but somewhere along the line I must have rested it long enough to stop the onslaught of repetitive painfulness.

There are two parts of the human body that were never meant to be used for walking, running or actually any kind of upright position. One is the knee and the other is the ankle.

Sometimes when I look at that small region near the foot which is supposed to handle all of our weight, I think it’s a wonder we aren’t laid up in hospital beds … all the time.

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Words from Dic(tionary)

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter AAcrobat: (n.) an entertainer who performs gymnastic feats.

I had a flash-back.

When I was in high school, so many bronze ages ago, it was mandatory to take two years of physical education. I put them off until my junior and senior years. (I don’t know if I was hoping for a lazy state legislature to repeal the law, or perhaps that the gymnasium would collapse from the onslaught of a Midwest tornado, but I delayed.)

I was a big, fat boy. I liked to play sports until it became obvious that it was exercise. Does that make sense? In other words, if you wanted to go out and throw the football around or shoot some hoops, I was there. But if you were gonna line up and purposefully use your muscles in a way that produced exertion and perspiration with no immediate pay-off of sinking a basket or tackling a friend, well … I was rather non-enthusiatic.

ESPECIALLY during the six-week period of physical education when we did gymnastics.

I was no acrobat. I was the kind of person that if I slipped and fell down a hill, it actually appeared that there was a person falling uncontrollably down the hill, as opposed to gracefully tumbling and landing on my feet. Any motion that I took towards the ground ended up in a splat instead of a forward roll.

I hated it.

I tried to get out of it by insisting that my parents were too poor to afford my gym clothes. I even tricked my mom into giving me a note to give to the instructor, telling him that I was physically unable to perform the feats.

It was unsuccessful. Amazingly, these small-town educators saw through my ploys.

The most embarrassing part of it was the fact that there was no privacy. When it was time to tumble, we formed a line which ran in a perpetual circle, so that each person could come and tumble on the mat, regain his feet, and get back into line to do it again, until everybody had done at least FOUR of them.

Some guys were just great. They looked like human Slinkeys. I, on the other hand, looked like play-dough hitting the sidewalk on a very hot day. Rather than rolling, I kind of just spread out all over the mat.

So when I regained my feet, hearing the titters of my friends, I hung back in the line, hoping the teacher did not notice how many forward rolls I had accomplished before the whistle would blow for the next horror. Unfortunately, he preferred to wait until the end, leading me to believe I had pulled off my scam, making me perform my last two somersaults back-to-back, with the whole class reviewing, as if they were East German judges at the Olympics.

Honestly, as I retell this, I am not quite sure how I survived it without resorting to some sort of self-mutilation or abuse of my fellow-students.

But when I see the word acrobat, I have a mingling of great admiration and a chill that goes down my spine, remembering that torturous hour spent, for a six-week period, when my school insisted that I try to take my enormous body and  imitate a thirteen-year-old female gymnast.

Even though I could never approve and am certainly horrified when I hear about school shootings–when someone walks into his classroom and guns everybody down–honestly, I might be a little sympathetic if I found out it was a big fat kid and it was a Phys Ed class during the six weeks … of gymnastics.