Issue 32: A Personal Story About Incredible Failure

In a previous issue, I wrote about catching a shirt at a basketball game. That was a tale of triumph and I’ll treasure it always.

But I’ve been on the other side of that situation, too, and it didn’t feel good at all.

Well, it didn’t feel good at all for the person it actually happened to. I was next to that person and it was hilarious for me. Here’s how it went down.

My friend Sean and I were going to an Austin Spurs game. At the time, they were known as the Austin Toros. They’re the NBA’s G-League team, which was known at the time as the D-League, for Developmental League.

The D-League name makes sense since it’s like the minor leagues of basketball, where young players can hone their skills before hopefully making the NBA. But now it’s called the Gatorade League, which sounds like you practice drinking Gatorade, and maybe mix some powder yourself in order to create a big tub of the stuff.

It’s also confusing because now the Austin Spurs have the same name as the San Antonio Spurs, so you might tell a friend in Austin, “hey, I’m going to the Spurs” game, and they’ll say, “oh, you’re driving down to San Antonio?” And you say, “No, the Austin Spurs.” And they’ll say, “huh, I thought they were the Toros.” And then you’ll say, “Yeah, they used to be, but they’re not anymore,” and they’ll respond that you’re confusing them. I haven’t lost any friendships over this conversation, but I’ve come close.

In any case, Sean and I were attending the game with a few of his friends. I had just met these folks, but they seemed like nice people. Only one of them is involved in this story, so we’ll call him Lance.

Lance was sitting on one side of Sean, and I was on the other. During a break in the action, the dancers came out to throw some t-shirts, and, as we learned from the t-shirt success story, everyone in the entire building went nuts over the opportunity to snag a shirt.

We were sitting maybe ten rows away from the court – certainly within t-shirt range. In front of us: a row of children. We do not know where their parents were sitting. There were two adults at the end of the row, but unless they were starring in a terrible reality show called 19 Kids and Counting, they were not the guardians of all of the children in front of us. One kid offered Sean cotton candy at one point. A generous offer, for sure, but he wisely declined.

The fact that we were sitting behind a row of children made our general vicinity an appealing target for a shirt toss. One dancer came over and chucked a shirt in our direction, but it went about five rows behind us. A man caught it and celebrated with glee, slapping hands with everyone he could. I couldn’t fault that man; we all know we’d have the same reaction.

We thought our luck had run out, but then a cheerleader came over to us with a shirt in her hand, waving it in the air like she just did not care. Everyone in our section was on their feet, hooting and hollering, trying to push some imaginary decibel-counter system into triple digits. Whatever we did, it worked, because the cheerleader cocked her arm back and chucked the shirt into the crowd.

It was hurtling right towards us.

Sean was amped up and ready to make a play for the shirt. He extended an arm outward, over the kids in front of us. He later told me he was trying to grab a shirt for them, so he could get back in their good graces after they had mocked him for ordering white wine at a basketball game. I don’t know if giving one kid a shirt while the other 17 in front of us got nothing would help patch things up, but I admired the effort.

And he did, in fact, get a hand on the shirt. He tapped it upwards to himself, snatched it out of the sky like a hawk zooming down and snagging a fish from the water, and gave a thumbs up to the Jumbotron camera that happened to catch the entire action onscreen.

Or at least, that’s how it played out in his head. In reality, Sean smacked the shirt so hard while trying to tip it to himself that he knocked it five rows behind us — directly to the exact same guy who had caught the first shirt thrown our way.

Had the situation ended right there, it would have been bad enough. But Lance, sensing blood in the water, turned towards Sean, pointed at him with an accusatory finger, and began chanting “jerk, jerk, jerk.”

Now, if you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where someone starts a chant, you know that it doesn’t take much for other people to get involved. Especially if that word is only one syllable and easy to say, it can become a chorus of voices pretty quickly. That’s exactly what happened here. After Lance started his “jerk” chant, the entire section joined in.

A cacophony of “jerk” chants rained down upon Sean, who slunk back into his seat like a kid who didn’t get the gift he was expecting on Christmas morning. It was all at once the most entertaining and saddest thing to watch. On the plus side, our group made it on the Jumbotron about five times during the game, so part of his dream did actually come to fruition.

The moral of the story: if you’re trying to catch a t-shirt at a basketball game, don’t try to tip it to yourself, lest an entire section of the stadium call you names.

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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