The Bench Warmer

basketball

When I began my first year of Junior college, I was surprised to learn that my high school gym teacher had become the college’s basketball coach. When I had him in high school he was always asking me to go out for the team, but I would always ignore him because I knew I lacked finesse as far as my ball handling skills were concerned. Shooting the basketball- I was great, but moving the ball from point A to B was a problem for me.

As soon as he spotted me in the corridor, he insisted I go out for the team. I tried to ignore him, but he got right in my face and wouldn’t take no for an answer. At 5’-9” I lacked rebounding skills but I figured he must need me badly if he was hounding me like that. I thought he might see potential in me that I didn’t realize I had. After making the team, I found I didn’t have to worry about rebounds, my main concern became wood bench slivers.

The big game with Wright Jr. College was approaching. All my friends went to Wright and I knew the stands would be packed with everyone scrutinizing my play, provided I got in the game of course. If I didn’t get in I wouldn’t be able to face them.

I phoned my friend Bernie and asked him if he wanted to go to the gym with me, so that I could polish up my long range shot in case a miracle occurred and I got in the game. Bernie said basketball was too dangerous but he would lift weights after I was done playing. I laughed because Bernie had never lifted a weight in his life.

Immediately upon entering the gym, they were picking sides for a game and I was selected. Not five minutes passed before I collapsed in a heap trying to out-jump King Kong.

My ankle made a popping sound and I was officially out of the game. I limped over to the sidelines where Bernie assisted me so that I could make my way home or to the nearest emergency room.

”Jer, how about keeping me company while I do the weights?” Bernie asked me sprightly.

”Bernie, are you out of your mind, my ankle is swelling by the second, give me a break!”

”Jer, don’t be a party pooper, I need to work up a sweat!”

The weight room was empty and Bernie headed for the rack of heavier weights. He placed at least 100 lbs. on the bar and proceeded to do a clean and jerk without warming up. The snap I heard in his back surpassed the snap I heard in my ankle. Bernie dropped the barbells and when they hit the wooden floor the sound of the crash was deafening. The weight instructor heard the sonic boom and came running, ready to throttle Bernie. Keep in mind he’s so muscle bound he can only shoot a basketball underhand. Literally, he resembled Arnold Schwartzenegger in his prime. Incredibly, Bernie talks his way out of harm’s way.

The next day my dad drives us both to the doctor’s office. The doctor tapes up Bernie like Ramses the mummy, from his arm pits to his coccyx bone. We’re all laughing including the doctor. Next, he tapes my ankle which is severely sprained and tells me I can forget about basketball for at least three weeks. Not good, the big game with Wright is in two weeks! I’m thinking the doctor doesn’t know he’s dealing with Superman and it goes in one ear and out the other. We go hobbling down the stairs, me with crutches and Bernie walking like Frankenstein.

When I report to practice, the coach is really steamed when he finds out I am severely handicapped. I couldn’t figure out what difference it made because I was only a bench warmer anyway. Was he concerned the bench would tip if there was one less guy sitting on it? He tells me in a very nasty manner that he wants me dressed and in uniform for the game regardless if I’m not playing or not.

The game begins with Wright scoring ten straight points before we could get near their goal. The stands are crowded with hordes of my friends wondering why I’m on the bench.

Maybe they thought I was my team’s secret weapon. Twenty points down and suddenly the tide turns. A few misplays on their part and we’re only six points down and that’s when my friends stand up en masse and start chanting my name.

WE WANT GOLDBERG!!!!…WE WANT GOLDBERG!!!!…WE WANT GOLDBERG!!!

”Are they crazy,” I thought out loud. ”I’m maimed, what do they want from me?”

The coach looks down the bench trying to locate me. I’m on the end trying to shrivel and duck so he can’t see me. He points at me and that means I am in, whether I like it or not. I step on the floor gingerly not knowing whether or not my ankle will buckle. The crowd erupts with excitement. I take a few steps towards the basket and someone passes me the ball. I look around, but I have no one to pass to so I take a long shot towards the basket. A guy leaps up to block it and the ball clears his fingertips by fractions and swishes into the basket…nothing but net. The crowd goes berserk. I look at the bench and my coach is screaming louder than anyone.

We get the ball back quickly but when I try to dribble with the ball, the pain in my ankle is excruciating. I’m limping badly and my coach pulls me out of the game. The crowd boos but I’m elated and couldn’t care less. We lost by twenty-five points and my friends say we would have won if the coach hadn’t pulled me. Ha ha!

A week passes and Bernie tells me he’s going to have his tape removed by the doctor. Sweet revenge, I tell him I’m an expert at tape removal and he believes me. I use a razor blade and when Bernie asks me if he is bleeding I tell him it’s perspiration because he lacks confidence in my medical abilities.

In the end I told Bernie that next time he needs company at the gym to count me out. Come to think of it, I’m the one that called him…. Oh well!

(basketball photo courtesy of Ponsulak/Dreamstime.com and foot photo courtesy of Ksena2009/Dreamstime.com)

Jerry Goldberg About Jerry Goldberg

Jerry Goldberg grew up on the west side of Chicago. After high school, he was drafted in the Army during the Korean conflict. Upon his honorable discharge, he joined Local 130 in Chicago as a plumber, working from 1952 to 2000. Jerry has been happily married for 60 years, residing with his wife, Gloria, in Huntley, Illinois. They were blessed with two wonderful children, and have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When his son encouraged him to get online, Jerry replied, “What do I need that for?” But all that changed a year into his retirement, when his daughter gave him a modem for his birthday, opening a whole new chapter. Finding stained glass insufficiently fulfilling, Jerry discovered the AARP message boards and began his one-finger magic. Eventually, he became quite proficient (two fingers), starting a board called, “Jerry’s Corner.”

This board was the second most popular board on AOL. Jerry bantered with any and all, and began writing humorous true stories of his past life. The stories you see here are a compilation of most he has written … enjoy!

Jerry Goldberg About Jerry Goldberg

Jerry Goldberg grew up on the west side of Chicago. After high school, he was drafted in the Army during the Korean conflict. Upon his honorable discharge, he joined Local 130 in Chicago as a plumber, working from 1952 to 2000. Jerry has been happily married for 60 years, residing with his wife, Gloria, in Huntley, Illinois. They were blessed with two wonderful children, and have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When his son encouraged him to get online, Jerry replied, “What do I need that for?” But all that changed a year into his retirement, when his daughter gave him a modem for his birthday, opening a whole new chapter. Finding stained glass insufficiently fulfilling, Jerry discovered the AARP message boards and began his one-finger magic. Eventually, he became quite proficient (two fingers), starting a board called, “Jerry’s Corner.”

This board was the second most popular board on AOL. Jerry bantered with any and all, and began writing humorous true stories of his past life. The stories you see here are a compilation of most he has written … enjoy!

  • David Tee

    WE WANT GOLDBERG!!

  • Jerry Goldberg

    But I still can’t dribble!. Well, maybe a little, but only from the mouth!

    • TheBigMilkshake

      But it’s great dribble Jerry, great dribble. Michael Jordan couldn’t dribble better!

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