you can spot one of them a mile away. The kids yell, "Give us back our ball please, mister," but he just takes a step onto the court, arches a two-handed set shot that looks like it came out of a museum, then turns around and walks out through the door when it misses.
What I mean is, it takes one to know one. But just go into any YMCA, or take a walk around a big city playground. They'll be there, guys who can't even see their shoes without bending over driving for a layup, and other guys who will play until those $40 Italian loafers don't have any soles left. I played one Sunday morning down in the Village with a guy wearing what was left of a tuxedo.
They'll play anytime and anywhere, and if they can't play they'll watch, and if they can't watch they'll talk. I have to mention all this because there are some people around, suspicious people, who think Pete and I did what we did for some other reason. But there was no other reason. We're a little nuts on basketball.
Peter and I teach in the same school and now and then we play ball on the side in the local industrial league; really, we play all the ball we can, whenever we can. We've both done some coaching and we both played some in college and in the service, and between the two of us we figure we have a great basketball mind. We sit around in my apartment and make up plays and defenses and presses, and we ball up pieces of newspaper and shoot at the wastepaper basket.
Anyway, we got into this thing because fate was against us. We had signed up with our team for the industrial league and given our shares of the entrance fee to Buffalo. He's the coach, general manager, equipment man, publicity director and everything else for the Harrison Street Athletic Association, and he handles our touch football team in the fall. The only trouble is that Buffalo got lost somewhere in Louisiana with the entrance fee for the league. He said he'd been down there doing some negotiating, and that's the thing about Buffalo, he makes a living negotiating. Only no one has ever seen him do it. What he did do was get back too late for the league deadline and all he had left was two bucks, and the Harrison Street Athletic Association was out, and so were we.
We were, in fact, doomed. I could see all those gray afternoons and cold evenings ahead of us. So we moped around for a couple of days not saying much of anything to anybody. And then one night Pete came over to my place and just sat there with a beer in one hand, bouncing my basketball up and down with the other. Then he said, "I got us a team to coach," and he looked up at me with a funny smile.
"Great," I said, and I was really excited. "That's what we needed. We'll put in that zone press we figured out."
We had a zone press we thought was the finest anybody had ever thought up. We figured it out one night in the Ivy, the bar we hang out at, and it was so good we took the coasters we drew it on home and they were under my shirts in the drawer, but then Pete said, "I don't know about the press."
"Why? That's the greatest press anybody ever thought up."
He picked up his beer again and drank.