Warriors
Warrior Dash: Made with lightning...real lighting!

I'd like to open this post by telling you about the Warrior Dash. It's basically a 5K with obstacles like barbed wire, mud pits, rope walls and freaking fire. It is without question the manliest thing I've ever done. I actually grew a second pair of balls by the time I dragged myself across the finish line...and it can do the same for you. For our female readers, don't worry: You'll merely grow some extra ovaries.

Anyway, welcome to this year's summer series The Pickup Diaries. Written in the spirit of Livin' Large, this series will serve as the memoirs of my "career" as a pickup basketball player. Hopefully, this will provide you with a little entertainment while you're waiting for the next NBA season to start up.

Part 1

As of the summer of 2010, my pickup basketball career has spanned 20 years, or seasons, or whatever you want to call them. Of course, based on how my teenage years began, my career almost ended up being zero seasons.

You see, here's the thing: I was fat and sucked at basketball.

When I was three years old, my mom was in a bad car accident. During the following year, she had several surgeries, but her main problem -- severe nerve damage in her neck and arms -- would never heal and could not be corrected. That was bad, because my mom was a manual laborer at a local car factory. And now she couldn't do that work...or any other work for that matter. As a result, she spent the next seven-plus years on disability.

That was a rough seven-plus years. My mom was a single parent with two kids and no support from either father. Suddenly, her yearly income was one-third of what it had been and, on top of that, she had a Shaq-sized pile of medical debt. And of course I'm talking about the post-2001 Shaq, alternately known as "Fat Shaq," "Shaq Albert" and "The Shambling Pork Beast." As you can imagine, this presented our little family unit with a lot of problems, not the least of which was food. Specifically, the lack thereof.

This is how it worked. My mom got paid only once a month, around the first of the month. Usually, buying groceries was the first thing she did. For the first week, we ate really well. During the second week, we nommed on the leftovers from the first week. Weeks three and four were...bad. By the end of the month, we had almost nothing to eat. I used to get by on mustard sandwiches. That's exactly what it sounds like, by the way: Two pieces of (usually semi-to-mostly stale) bread with nothing but mustard between them.

If you do the relatively simple math, I spent about half of my childhood either hungry or nearly starving. And my mom and sister were right there with me.

Occasionally, my mom would try to supplement our diet with offerings from the local Rescue Mission. Hell, we even stood in line for a few hours to get a two large blocks of that horrific government cheese that was being handed out during the Reagan administration. (Speaking of which: Fuck you, Ronald Reagan. That shit sucked.) But my mom was a very proud woman, and, more often than not, her pride prevented her from accepting food stamps or standing in food lines with the rest of Kokomo's needy.

She never wanted to admit just how needy we were.

At the end of that seven-plus year period, my mom finally made it back to work. This was due in part to the fact that she had finally adjusted to the constant pain of her physical condition, but also because the UAW had gotten her company, Delco Electronics, to agree to a series of physical restrictions for partially disabled employees. Basically, Delco could no longer discriminate against workers who couldn't lift and move objects beyond their physical capacity.

A steady paycheck didn't make out mountains of debt disappear in the blink of an eye, but my mom could afford food again. Not just for one or two weeks, but every week of every month of the year. Unfortunately, all those years of being deprived one of life's most basic necessities had a nasty effect on my mom's outlook on food. No matter how much food she bought, she always felt like we were still on the brink of starvation. Every time she walked into a grocery store, she shopped like our cupboards were bare.

She's still like that to this day. I had to move her to a new apartment a few years ago, and she had (for example) three gallons of milk, 21 jars of pickles, 172 cans of soup, and 68 boxes of JELL-O. Yes, I counted. No, I am not making this up. Mind you, she was living alone at this point. I asked her what one person could possibly need with 68 boxes of JELL-O. She said: "You just never know." I took her shopping a few weeks later and she tried to buy four more boxes.

Sometimes, life can really screw with your mind.

Anyway, I was hitting full-blown puberty around the time my mom went back to work. I was a skinny little runt, which is about what you'd expect of a kid who was living off bread and water half the time. But now, suddenly, food was coming at me from everywhere. Fatty, high calorie food. (Science hadn't discovered nutrition yet.) And I ate it. I ate everything in front of me. I asked for more. I ate well beyond what my hunger necessitated. Now that I could eat however much I wanted, that's exactly what I did. I literally couldn't help myself.

My metabolism -- metabolism being something else science hadn't discovered yet -- couldn't handle the extreme change in my caloric intake. Not surprisingly, I started gaining weight. Within a year, I had gone from skinny to pudgy. Within two years, I was very pudgy. Three years later, I was a hadn't quite reached the "human beanbag" stage, but I was a fatty. And you know how some people can be overweight but they're also just big, solid people? Like, you can tell there's significant muscle under all those extra pounds? Yeah, well, that wasn't me. I had always had been slender and long-limbed. For most of my life, I had been skin and bones...more bones than skin. Now I had some serious extra flesh wrapped around those bones.

Extreme weight gain over a relatively short period of time didn't exactly do wonders for my physical abilities. Mind you, I had spent about six years playing P.A.L. soccer. Now, I was the dreated Last Guy Picked For Anything in Gym Class. I was bad at almost everything. I was that kid who couldn't do a chin-up, or climb that damn rope that ran to the ceiling fo the gymnasium. I remember failing a really easy running test. I remember someone flicking one of my man boobs during a swimming lesson. It was humiliating, and so I began to avoid sports, or anything else that required physical exertion.

This, of course, didn't help my condition.

By my sophomore year, I was still a walking sausage, but my life changed course one day when I was waiting for my Driver's Ed class to start. I think nearly every high school has one or a small handful students who are universally regarded as the absolute bottom of the social ladder. You know...The Losers. Everybody, no matter how fat or ugly or whatever can make fun of The Losers because, well, just because. It's a high school thing.

Anyway, I happened to be standing next to Mark M., who was one of The Losers of my school. I wasn't talking to him -- I doubt I even knew he was there, being of a (only slightly) higher social caste -- when, unprompted, he turned to me and said: "You're a real fatass."

I was stunned. Not only had I just been blasted for no reason whatsoever by one of The Losers, but he was right. I was a fatass. I was completely disarmed. I had no comeback. He was right.

That afternoon, I went straight home, stomped up to my mom and said: "I need a weight set."

This wasn't the first time I had shown a sudden, passionate interest in exercise. However, because that interest had never sustained itself past the "sudden, passionate expression of interest" stage, my mom was more than a wee bit skeptical. She said: "Are you sure? Will you really use it."

At this point, my determination was absolute. "Yes," I said. And I damn well meant it.

We went to the local Service Merchandise and bought a 125-pound weight set. Service Merchandise worked like this: You bought what you wanted in the store and then drove your car around back to pick it up at the end of this long conveyor belt. The weight set was packaged in a large cardboard box. When it reached my end of the conveyor belt, I tried to pick it up...and couldn't. I tugged with all my might but couldn't budge it. Soon, a man came out of the warehouse and casually picked the box up then dropped it into the trunk of my mom's car. I felt like such a weakling.

At home, I still couldn't pick up the box. I had to open it in the trunk and carry the weight set into the house weight-by-weight.

I went from binging on food to binging on workouts. I lifted weights. I ran up and down the hill in my backyard. I did three aerobics shows every day: "Getting Fit" with Denise Austin -- yes, I'm man enough to admit I once worked out to Denise freaking Austin -- "Bodies in Motion" with Gilad Janklowicz, and "Basic Training" with Gilad's sister, Ada. The funny part? All three of these programs were broadcast back-to-back-to-back on ESPN. I'm being completely serious. It's hard to imagine that now, right? Kind of hard to fit in aerobics shows on ESPN these days. You'd have to make room between mock drafts and people screaming at each other about when Brett Favre is going to retire or whether Kobe Bryant is now the Greatest Laker Ever...and that's not going to happen.

I also returned to starvation mode, this time by choice. Some days I might eat nothing but one piece of bread with a little peanut butter on it. Other days I only ate a doughnut. It was a terrible diet for a growing teenager, but my obsession with losing weight quickly reached "borderline eating disorder" mode.

The school year ended and I kept pushing harder. By the end of June, I had lost almost 70 pounds. The old, skinny me was back, only now I had some actual muscle tone to go along with it. Not as much as I should have, maybe, because doughnuts didn't pack a lot of protein.

One Saturday evening around the end of June, I was hanging out with my friend Gauvin. We were chilling in his backyard -- which, like many homes in Indiana, was equipped with a rickety basketball goal -- listening to my latest discovery: Surfing with the Alien by Joe Satriani. While Gauvin was rewinding and replaying the tape over and over and over again, I picked up an old, half-flat basketball and started casually shooting hoops.

I don't know exactly what happened on that lazy summer night, but basketball -- a sport I loved to watch but loathed to play -- suddenly felt right to me. I became almost obsessively fascinated with the ball flicking through the net. After making it happen once, I wanted to do it again and again. So while Gauvin was wearing a hole in my prized tape, I stood about 15 feet from his old basketball goal and attempted several hundred, maybe even a couple thousand jump shots.

I was hooked. And my new vice would, in part, define the next two decades of my life.

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55 Comments:
Blogger Sid said...
Dang. No pic of Fat Matt?

Anonymous Cetti said...
already love those stories.

by the way, i'm from germany and have spend the whole last night reading the livin' large episodes.

it's not quite easy to get "personal opinions" on the nba here, so i've been following that blog silently since february, i think, and it's just great and partially a reason why i spent several nights staying up and watching the playoffs live. keep up the good work!

Anonymous msk said...
Thanks for giving us something interesting for the off-season, unlike the "all draft, all LeBron" thing of everyone else. Basketbawful is the greatest.

I admire your grit - that's one hell of a background/Part 1 for this summer's series.

Blogger Will said...
So all those Oliver Miller jokes, was that pent-up self loathing?

Anonymous The Unknown Miner said...
You have to suffer to drop that kind of poundage. I dropped 50 pounds in between 11th and 12th grade.

The difference in quickness is immeasurable.

BTW, I absolutely loved Livin' Large, and can't wait to hear some pickup tales (which are honestly my favorite part of this site).

Anonymous michalbulhakov said...
Darn, I had no idea mustard sandwiches diet was present in America, I always thought that's just our very own eastern european kind of reality.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Wow..that is an awesome story.

I have read this blog regularly for a few years now. More then any Laker fan should...but I enjoy this blog so much. Never commented. Have to now.

The story of your mom, hit home hard. That is my story as well. I have 3 kids, all teens now and although I do work, I barely manage to make ends meet. My kids eat alot of pancakes to fill up and top Ramon noodles.

Hearing the story from your perspective, gave me some hope that one day, the kids will look back and know that I tried and worked as hard as I could.

Just don't try and feed them pancakes and top raman.

Go Lakers!!! 2010!!! sorry, had too :)..oxoxo

Blogger chris said...
You see, here's the thing: I was fat and sucked at basketball.

that never stopped Oliver Miller.

Blogger chris said...
And of course I'm talking about the post-2001 Shaq, alternately known as "Fat Shaq," "Shaq Albert" and "The Shambling Pork Beast."

Don't forget the recently coined "Big Voskuhl." :D

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Good stuff man. Should be good offseason entertainment (in addition to whatever NBA stuff you post).

By the way, are you still going to be posting NBA 2k10 player diaries?

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Seconding Fat Matt pics!

And what in the fu-... 70 pounds?!

I'm going to look down the Jello aisle every time I shop now too look for a Jello Mom =(. Like you already made going to Taco Bell a depressing event, now this!

Blogger 49er16 said...
We need a Dr. Jack breakdown of Fat Matt and Skinny Matt.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Oh this is going to be good. I stopped playing basketball in my mid teens...until I was invited to play a pick up game at the age of 25. Now I'm 41 and play 3 days a week. (And my wife doesn't mind!)

Blogger Dan said...
3rd for Fat Matt pics!

And I know this is way past when it happened, but congrats on losing all that weight. I'm sure it was much rougher than you made it sound.

Blogger jim said...
bawful, i'm stoked for this already. your wry style fits this sort of memoir perfectly.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Sweet, this is Livin Large all over again, I am sold already.

Blogger chris said...
30 years from now, Bawful will write a memoir entitled "Court of Dreams" in which he faces Mat in a pickup game for ALL THE MARBLES, with Taco Bell Jennifer looking on.

This will be optioned into a feature film with painfully inappropriate casting, which will inspire someone in a Midwest state to build a parquet-floor court in the middle of a barley field.

AMIRITE?!?!?!??!?!

Blogger Marc said...
DAMN Mark Madsen for calling you fat!

At least you got the last laugh, he only played in the NBA for what 10 years?


Anyway, I happened to be standing next to Mark M., who was one of The Losers of my school. I wasn't talking to him -- I doubt I even knew he was there, being of a (only slightly) higher social caste -- when, unprompted, he turned to me and said: "You're a real fatass."

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Guys, while surfing the web I came across this excellent poem. It is very well written and thought provoking. Reading it increased my reach by 5 inches and my wife loves it! It really works!Do click on the link, or you will be kissed on this Friday by the first...you know how it goes right?

http://www.sportskeeda.com/2010/06/20/nba-finals-and-beyond/

p.s. I'm not Sid.

Blogger Sid said...
The link has some pics. This is the piece:

I am going to compose a ditty.
An ode to this series that went seven games, before Lakers delivered the knock out punch
Don’t expect a prose very witty.
It bodes ill, trying to words to rhyme with names like this bunch.

Seriously, what can I say that rhymes with Bryant’s name?
That he has ants in his pants and he wishes they’d make themselves scant?
And those rhymes exclude the Bry part of his name
I did warn you this rant would be somewhat lame.

(Ironically, Bryant rhymes with rhyme)

It’s a load on my heart, that none of these names include James.
Maybe if he spent less time on his antics which prelude games…
Ok folks, jokes apart, he is better off losing at this point.
He needs to feel what it’s like to disappoint.

I’ll explain this with an example
With the 5th pick in the 1995 draft TWolves drafted KG.
Where he carried on his back guys like Sam Mitchell
While LeBron went around chillin with JayZ

This ceaseless struggle fuelled Garnett’s fire
Saddled with useless rubble, has quelled many a heart’s desire.
But in his case, there fumed a desire, a drive to drive out of this mire
Just win the race, to the tune of a lyre, ere he arrives at his pyre.

These are some of the tattoos ingrained on James’ torso
Gifted child, Chosen one and witness
Collectively these tats shout big head without refrain, even more so
than a tatted ‘EGO’ would, although that would avoid pretense

















Way I see it, he’s had popular acclaim from the get go.
Unlike other players whose game was labeled as so-so.
Don’t get it twisted, he’s tight in his own right.
That also implies his lack of a ring is his oversight.

The mighty hammer from Akron
Has become a perpetual thorn
In my side, besides residing there
Where he uses transits without paying fare

This free agency is going to be crazy.
The mind boggles; I can’t even begin to address this.
Maybe I fancy I’m just too lazy.
Go google it, if you find it interesting.

Well, the Lakers won their second ring in a row
For many a fan this is a new high in low
A trade too lopsided to swallow
Sent away Kwame for Pau Gasol
This led to these rings, and more to follow.

I would have the Celtics win this
Instead we are all witness
As LeBron would have said
On those ads, for which he’s obscenely paid.

This was probably the last shot of the leprechauns
I don’t disparage but they aren’t getting any younger
While Wallace eats his weight in pounds
Their team’s age on an average is higher than the Spurs

This in spite of the young duo of Shrek and donkey
And Rondo, who are green in more ways than one
Fact that big 3 are aging is really not low key
They won’t end their lays with and one

Celtics did win one in 08
Since then they have played
well, happily ever after
without adding another banner to the rafter

It was a memorable run I’ll say
Although it ended in dismay
They did knock off the two best teams in the league, to wit Cavs and Orlando magic
Major props to them from my fellow colleagues, for their grit in a loss so tragic.

Blogger sonya said...
this is an awesome post...looking forward to the rest of this!!

Anonymous t said...
tough start, man. all the best to you and your family!

looking forward to the series

Anonymous Driver said...
Metabolism has nothing to do with fat gain/loss.

When you eat more calories than you burn, your body stores the unused calories as fat.

When you eat less calories than you burn, your body takes the missing calories out of your fat tissue.

That's it.

Blogger Buck Nasty said...
Hmm. Well, looks like we're in for more stories about McHale's life. I approve.

Blogger Japes said...
Wow, puts a lot of things into perspective. Well done Matt, we can always count on your excellent writing to keep us entertained despite the end of bball season.

Btw, I'm the opposite. When I was 19, I was 144lbs and dunking volleyballs (I'm only 5'8"). Now I'm 32 and 200 lbs, knees are gone and can barely touch the rim now. Now I know how Larry Johnson feels.

Blogger Drake said...
Japes:

You'll only know how LJ feels when you start to launch ugly three-pointers and make "L" signs with your arms after you make a couple.

Blogger Dooj said...
@driver

You're probably technically right, but a higher metabolism means you burn more calories. When you eat less for a long time, your metabolism slows. When your metabolism slows, you burn less calories. So, in a way metabolism has a lot to do with fat gain and loss.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Bad. Ass. Can't wait to read more. You're a tough dude and great storyteller, Matt.

By the way, are you still going to be posting NBA 2k10 player diaries?

I'm the one who writes those entries, and yes, I will be writing more of them as soon as I get back from vacation next week. I didn't feel like the playoffs needed any of my "filler" entries like those, so I took notes on any games I played during that stretch.

Anonymous UpA said...
This is great!

It requires great strenght to let somebody know of your life and of your lowest and hardest days, let alone let the whole interwebs know, congrats on you, you are not only a fantastic story teller, a good writer but also a good guy.

I would buy a book written by you...think about it for your retirement days.

Your blog is my daily dose of amusement.

Blogger LotharBot said...
> "When you eat less calories than you burn, your body takes the missing calories out of your fat tissue."

To a point. If you eat a lot less calories than you burn, your body starts taking the missing calories out of muscle tissue (in order to lower your metabolism), and preserving fat tissue.

General rule of thumb: if you're losing more than 2 pounds per week, you're doing it wrong. If you're an extreme fatass, consult with a doctor, yada yada.

BTW http://www.liamrosen.com/fitness.html is a pretty nice guide to basic fitness. Definitely worth the read.

Anonymous The Other Chris said...
Bawful, thank you for allowing me to discover the "Warrior Dash". That is definitely on the agenda as the focal point of a future road trip of stupid. I feel manlier just reading about it. Or dirtier. One of the two.

Anonymous Driver said...
Dooj: No, your metabolism doesn't slow down. Your basal metabolic rate will be lower if you become lighter.

That's not gonna be the difference between being healthy or a "real fatass" though.

Anonymous Sorbo said...
Great post. Looking forward to the pickup diaries (PUD?). You mentioned that you're naturally a skinny kid who gets fat over his bones. I'm the same way, and I'm always fascinated about how the fat comes in. Like, when you start gaining weight, where does it show first? Mine always starts on the gut then works its way up to the jowels. Such a pain to keep those jowels in shape.

Metabolism has nothing to do with fat gain/loss.

If not metabolism, then what? Adipose elves? BTW, your next two sentences are, in fact, a simplistic definition of metabolism.

Bawful - What the fuck kind of name is Gauvin?

Remember when auto-reverse was the coolest feature on a tape deck? Man, it's good those days are long past.

I've eaten mustard sandwiches by choice.

Blogger Lord Kerrance said...
Add me to the chorus wanting a pic of Fat Matt.

I've loved Basketbawful over the past year but have definitely missed the pickup-oriented content.

Speaking of which: Whatever happened to the White Man Jump Challenge?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
I've tried to purge all the pictures of Fat Matt, but there may be one or two somewhere. If I can dig 'em up, I promise to share...as much as I'd rather not.

Also, Lord Kerrance, regarding the White Man Jump Challenge...that question will be answered in this tale. :)

Anonymous Marc said...
Nice! I had almost forgotten about Livin' Large in the 50 or so lifetimes that have passed since last summer. Looking forward to the new episodes!

Anonymous JoeH said...
As a guy who loves following the NBA it's fascinating to me that I enjoy your non-NBA related posts much more than I do the NBA-related posts. I think that means you're a great writer. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more.

Anyway, am I the only other one who loved Service Merchandise back in the day? I absolutely loved getting the catalog and going to that store. Good times.

Glad to hear you overcame your poor fatness :)

Blogger Quinton said...
LIES ALL LIES, pics of you as a fatty kid or GTFO!

Anonymous AK Dave said...
Can you post a fat Matt pic?

I think I FOUND ONE!!

Sorry, sorry, couldn't help myself >< But really, WTG and all that. I think many of us have had a similar "moment of truth" and decided to take a stand and change our lifestyle so as to avoid living life fat, drunk, and stupid. I mean that in earnest. Somtimes it takes something like a loser calling you a loser (and him being RIGHT) or waking up in a pool of your own vomit or losing a job etc etc to make you come face to face with reality.

I like where this series is going so far!

Anonymous Ash Haque said...
I really liked your livin large series last year, can't wait for the next part of this series!

Anonymous Bryan said...
Ohh fitness shows on ESPN. How i remember those days. Every morning at 6am before my mom would leave to work and drop me off at school id watch Flex Appeal with Kiana Tom before captain planet would come on. Wow was she hot. Now thats how you start a morning. Not this put a tie on hung over bs i put up with now.

Anonymous Ice said...
Looking forward to the next part...

Anonymous Brian said...
Bawful, thanks for making the offseason enjoyable with this great stories. I'm sure this series will be as interesting as Livin' Large.

On NBA related news, the Warriors traded Bad Porn to the Bucks for Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell. Any thoughts of this trade?

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=5316714

Anonymous AK Dave said...
What could be more pathetic than Denver pining to get Linas Kleiza back, only to have him happily decline and continue to earn rockstar money in Greece?

Oh how the mighty Nuggets have fallen!

WV: prostral
Get your prostral checked at regular intervals, fellas

Anonymous Marc (real) said...
AK Dave: What if it's just one of those things? Is that okay? Or does that call for a moment of truth as well?

Blogger LotharBot said...
AK Dave,

from what I understand, Denver extended a "qualifying offer" to Kleiza, which allows them to keep his rights; they aren't particularly trying to get him onto the active roster. If they keep extending QO's and he decides to come back to the NBA, he'll come back as a restricted free agent (giving them the rights to match any contract he's offered, or push the other team into a S&T.) If they fail to extend a QO, he'd become unrestricted.

(I could be wrong.)

WV: bakeops. The military headquarters for making bread.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
@Marc: well, in the infamous words of Dean Wormer: "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son." :D

@LotharBot: I was not aware of this, thanks for the explanation. Still, Denver seems to be concerned with him going somewhere else, or else they wouldn't have made the QO, so that's gotta count for something, right?

Anyway, I can't take anyone named "Linus" seriously.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You're a damn good storyteller...keep at it!

Anonymous Sorbo said...
@AK Dave: That's awesome. Well when the Nuggets have two shooting machines, why would he want to come back? Foreign contracts is something the NBA will need to address soon. Too many guys bailing to be "The Man" in lesser leagues. That reminds me, any talk on the Childress front?

I don't know who sets the "word verification" for posting on this blog, but my word today was "butrapp." Even this site's verification has a sense of humor.

Blogger eileen said...
Looking forward to reading the rest of the new series. And I request a Fat Matt picture as well.

Blogger chris said...
eileen: I think that if we DON'T get a Fat Matt photo, that AnacondaHL should get a relatively-similar-looking celeb and place that on a flowchart, and that'll suffice.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
@chris:

I second your proposed ultimatum on fat-Matt pic, and submit this picture as a second potential substitute (see post at 6:29 on 6/22 for first submission).

Blogger skilegap said...
looks like a lot of fun I have signed up for a similar race in Montreal the Spartan Race http://www.spartanrace.com we don't have a warrior dash up here.

Anonymous Dr Eric Berg said...
definitely lots of fun.

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