In last week’s Life in Hong Kong Update, I mentioned spraining my ankle badly while trying to teach someone a lesson on the basketball court. Nearly 3 months later, my ankle is still not fully healed and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what happened. It would seem that I was the one who needed to learn some lessons.
It was Halloween Day, and I was still feeling a little groggy and sleepy from jet lag after returning from SF. I figured some exercise would do me good so I headed over to Victoria Park for some shooting and running around. After a little while, I recognized a guy that I played with a few months back. I wasn’t sure if he recognized me, so I didn’t say anything. Eventually, I asked him if he was so-and-so to break the ice, he said he remembered me, and we chatted a bit before starting a game with some people on another court.
Mistake #1 was that I got a bit too chummy with so-and-so such that once we got the game started, I played a bit friendlier than I normally would. I didn’t guard him as closely and I didn’t exploit his weaknesses on offense. I tend to do this whenever I play against people that I’ve been chatting with. It’s like I’m so happy that someone talked to me that I don’t want to ruin it by beating them (not that that’s a foregone conclusion anyway).
Mistake #2 was a compound mistake: trying to turn it on after messing around, and trying to show somebody up. There was a guy on the other team who was really arrogant and cocky. The guy on my team who was guarding him wasn’t a very good defender, so the arrogant guy made a bunch of shots. At the same time, he kept calling those HK-style ticky-tack fouls that I find so annoying. The way I figured it, if you think you’re so good why do you need to call those stupid non-fouls? I wanted to knock him down a peg or two. A comeback win would do it. I started playing my guy more seriously, but by that time it was too late. As much as you’d like to think you can, you can’t always just “turn it on” in the middle of a game after not taking it seriously.
I was flustered, angry, and frustrated and I started playing like a madman, playing overly intensely and completely opposite of how I started the game. On one play, I tried to lunge and steal an incoming pass that I had no chance of stealing, and my left foot landed on so-and-so’s. I heard and felt a “criiiickaaack” sound, as if my ankle was one of those big-suitcase zippers and it was being unzipped in one quick, downward motion. At that moment I knew it was game over. I’ve sprained that ankle many times before, but this was the first time in many years and I immediately knew this one was serious. It started swelling up immediately. I was now not only flustered, angry, and frustrated, but humiliated as well. Foolishly and pridefully, I played one more game before finally going home.
What’s important to you?
This past week I felt some impatience at how long it’s taken for my ankle to heal, and it got me thinking about this question. Trying to show up people whom I deem to be arrogant, unreasonable, willfully-ignorant, or whatever else has long been a weakness of mine. Is it really that important to show up some stranger that you will probably never, ever meet again (or even strangers you will never meet, period, like those on the internet)? If I ever have a hard time answering that question, then all I have to do is look at the costs: 3+ months of not being able to fully play basketball, consistent intermittent pain in my ankle (sometimes even when I shift around in bed) and, in the case of responding to internet trolls, spending more time at the keyboard than with things and people that really matter, like JC. I really have to ask myself: what are my priorities?
For me, when I play basketball, my priority is to play well. Winning or losing is not important. There have been times when I’ve won and felt crappy because I didn’t play up to my expectations, and there have been times when I was perfectly happy with a losing outcome because I played well. Other than basketball, in the bigger picture one of my priorities is to use my limited time wisely, spending it on things that matter to me, like my family, my health, and my interests. These are things that I consider to be important.
Our time is so limited. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. We would be wise to spend it doing the things that matter to us. The next time I feel myself getting worked up, I have to try to remember what my priorities are, and whether any subsequent action or inaction on my part will be consistent with them. If not, count to ten, take a deep breath, and walk away. That’s it. It won’t be easy, but then again nobody said that anything worth having in life was easy.