Baliktanaw: Wow, you’re tall. Do you play basketball?

A quick Google search says that the average height for Filipino males is 5ft and 4.5in. On a good day, I stand at the favorable height of 5’9″. Being taller than average, most people upon meeting me will ask if I play basketball. And if I am with my dad (who is a die-hard basketball fan and every-now-and-then player), he will say that I’d “rather draw than play” with a little hint of sadness in his eyes. It’s a good thing my younger brother plays basketball and is really good at it so the basketball genes can still be passed down in my heritage.

But there is a reason why I don’t play basketball. My un-basketball-ness developed during one fateful day. Let me take you back in time. Back to when little Jai was still in primary school. This is the story of the day that I lost interest in ballin’.

4th Grade
Recess Time
Classroom 4A

There I was, minding my own business. I was most likely copying homework or doodling in my notebook when my classmate called me. He told me to join a basketball game with him and other friends. This was the first time I was ever asked to play basketball in school. A real basketball game! All I ever did before was shoot hoops by myself or with my dad. I didn’t even know the rules back then.

I told my classmate that I didn’t know how to play but he told me that it wasn’t that hard. All I had to do was “stand there and when the ball is passed to you, find another teammate and pass it to him.”

Sounded pretty easy so I agreed. Little did I know that I was opening Pandora’s box.

So there I was, in the game, 4 on 4 if I remember correctly. Tucked-in shirts versus tucked-outs. It was just half a court but it seemed so vast to me. I didn’t know where to put myself. So I stood there, readying myself for someone to pass the ball to me. And so for a few times, I did what was asked of me pretty well. I was actually having fun by passing the ball to my teammates. I didn’t even know what the score was but it didn’t matter. I was playing basketball!

The first hiccup happened when I got a little too confident. By then I was already moving around. I called to my classmate to pass me the ball. He didn’t so I looked for somewhere else to go because I might not be in a good position. When I looked back at my teammate, all I saw was an orange blur. Boom! The ball bounced off my head and went out of bounds. I heard laughter as I struggled to regain my vision. It seemed that while I was looking somewhere else, my classmate did pass the ball to me. The game stopped to check on me. It was just a little bump, the ball injured my ego more than my body but never mind that, so I just waved it off and told them to continue playing.

And then it happened. The ball was up in the air. Everything was in slow motion. My friend was screaming at me. “JAI! JUMP AND GET THE BALL!” In my mind, this was the time for me to prove that I can actually play basketball. When I get the ball, I’m gonna shoot it and tell my dad how I scored for the first time ever in a real basketball game.

I jumped.

I missed the ball and it went flying to another direction. I never saw where it went because on my descent from the air, I felt a knee rising up to meet my rapidly descending gonads. Boooooooooooooom! The next thing I remember I was kneeling down and everything was white. There was pain everywhere between my bellybutton and my thighs. It felt as though there was a black hole in my stomach. I knelt there for a long time, swaying back and forth and moaning. I didn’t know what was happening around me.

I didn’t even know who hit me but it felt as if the knee just slammed my testicles so hard, they went into my body. I stood up and staggered away. I remember saying loudly that I was fine but I didn’t want to play anymore. I limped back to the classroom and silently took a seat. I stared at the desk for a long time until the blurriness disappeared from the corners of my vision. I was afraid to check on my gonads for fear of feeling them broken. I was ready to say goodbye to being a father. I didn’t talk for the rest of the day. The pain went away after 30 minutes or so, but the experience left me traumatized.

And from that day forward, whenever my classmates would ask me to play basketball, I would always say no. I know my dad would be a little disappointed that his tall son never learned to play basketball well, but I know it’s okay. Because deep down, my testicles are thanking me…

So that was my story. I did get around to playing basketball again. I found the courage some time in high school. But I never got good at it. I still play casually, but it’s not something I’d choose to play if there were other options. I guess you could say that I stopped playing ball so that I could protect my balls.




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