Redondo Beach, California. Wednesday, January 15th.
"You’re so full of shit. On both accounts."
On Tuesday night, my buddy Jim tried to tell me that not only do Matt Leinart and Luke Walton play in a basketball rec league but they play on the same team. I expressed my disbelief. He shook his head. “I swear to god. They’ve got a playoff game tomorrow night.”
This blew my mind. I’ve heard of former pro athletes playing in amateur leagues - a 6’ 11” center from the Celtics whose name eludes me like his shots eluded the basket played in the same league several years ago - but those guys are old. Retired. Just looking to break a sweat.
Leinart and Walton? They’re 30 and 33, respectively. Do they really like hoops that much? This, I had to see.
Team name = ”Wonderbread”
Their opponents did not seem nearly as rattled as I’d expected. Me? I would’ve had trouble playing with my autograph book in hand. And, as a Notre Dame grad, I freaking hate Leinart. It was all I could do not to yell out “Bush Push” cracks. (Two of my ND buddies made Reggie Bush jokes in their Facebook comments.)
I came away impressed with both guys. Walton never left the floor, but he didn’t try to dominate until late when they trailed by 18 with five minutes to go. Oh, I’m sorry, did I not mention that Wonderbread had been losing since the second minute of the game?
Their opponents, sponsored by Makai, a marketing and events company coincidentally owned by a friend of mine, rained threes like the trailer from “Noah” with the majority of them going in. Meanwhile, Luke & Leinart couldn’t buy a shot from behind the arc.
Once upon a time, I played in this gym, albeit as part of a “6’ 2” and under” league. I had to quit because my teams - which I assembled - always sucked and nobody went out drinking afterwards. Maybe full court hoops is too tiring, or produces too much body odor, or maybe it’s the lack of women in the league who in soccer and flag football leagues then go to a bar and get drunk with sweaty dudes. I dunno. But I quit.
Anyways, watching these two elite athletes miss threes in the same gym where I missed threes made me feel really good, probably the equivalent of watching a PGA guy duff a chip at my local muni. But why the hell would a PGA guy play golf at my local muni?!
The answer to that question eventually led a part of me to root for Wonderbread, a turnabout that shocked me to my jock strap. If I’m not “invested” in a game, I root for the underdog; obviously, then, I would be cheering for the stacked team would lose. And I did just that for the first 34 minutes.
But then L&L locked in, two competitors who refused to lose despite their seemingly insurmountable deficit. That’s not to say they hadn’t been trying to win earlier in the game; that would have been disrespectful and both men played with total class. This wasn’t a case of the older guys in the neighborhood finally declaring, “No more joking around!” before pounding the crap out of the little dudes who mistakenly thought they were in control. Walton and Leinart had been trying all along, but something clicked in their brains late in the game, something tangible, and, dammit if I didn’t start hoping to see them pull off the miracle comeback.
What’s more stunning, that Matt Leinart and Luke Walton play on the same rec league team, or that said team lost?
Tonight was a victory for athletics and competition and camaraderie. Matt Leinart played in front of 94,000 fans at the Coliseum, winning a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Luke Walton played alongside Kobe and has two championship rings at home. Each banked millions of dollars in his career. Yet, those two guys still come out on a Wednesday night to run with their buddies in a town league game.
Male or female sport? Male. That makes 61 female events out of 132.
Pay for a ticket? Nope Total: $971
Miles driven: 4
Hotel or friend/family? My place. I’m back home for 10 days, so I’ll be turning off the counter. (95 nights with friends/family out of 106.)
Did Jamie eat a hot dog today? No
Sports Year Hot Dog Count: 46