Skill level: zero

Skill level: zero

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Considering the long and sad history of heart disease in my family, I've taken it upon myself to make a concerted effort to do what I can, when I can, to maintain a reasonable level of physical activity.

Not that it'll make any difference, though. It's just a matter of time until my wife gets the call:

"Hello, Mrs. Strauss? Um, so he's been resting his head on his computer for, like, four hours. We think there might be a problem."

Nevertheless, I continue to try and fool myself into believing I'm prolonging my sorry existence by exercising a few mornings each week at the local fitness center.

At first, I tried running.

ME: I ran today.

WIFE: How long?

ME: Honey, time is but a state of mind. I believe time is not something tangible, but rather more of a spatial relationship between force and energy.

WIFE: How long did you run?

ME: Three minutes and 14 seconds.

Then, I tried an abdominal machine. 

ME: So do I look any different?

WIFE: Actually, your stomach looks leaner.

ME: Really?

WIFE: No, not really. Do you want more pizza?

ME: Yes.

Then, I tried the stair machine.

WIFE: How'd the stair machine go?

ME: Give me a break. Nobody uses stairs anymore. That's why man invented elevators. Furthermore, that's why
another man invented escalators, just in case people did have to use stairs. At least then the stairs would move for them.

WIFE: So you didn't use the stair machine?

ME: Well, I looked at it. And believe me, watching that guy sweating on that thing was very, very emotionally exhausting for me.

I'm assuming one of these days I'll just keel over at the gym while I'm standing there doing nothing, which I believe would be an ironic and appropriate ending to me.

Nevertheless, there I was the other day at the gym, trying to figure out what not to do, when I saw a couple of guys playing basketball. 

They looked like they were having fun and appeared to be exercising to some degree, so I thought to myself, "Gosh, it's been a good two or 25 years since you've touched a basketball, Lane. Why not?"

And so, I grabbed a ball and walked out onto the court. 

Then I looked at my watch. 

By doing so, I clearly was sending a message to the other guys that they shouldn't ask me to play with them because I didn't have a lot of time to get a full-court workout in. 

By looking at my watch, I was silently saying I had just a few minutes to squeeze in some jumpers and maybe a gorilla slam or two.

Apparently, it worked, because they left me alone. 

I think they left me alone partly because I was looking at my watch. But mostly because I was dribbling with two hands.

And so, with a bit of trepidation, I stood on the court. Alone, with ball in hand. 

I dribbled to the foul line, I squared myself to the basket and I launched a 16-foot jumper. 

My shot was crisp and true. 

Nothing but net. 

And when I say nothing but net, I mean nothing but the bottom of the net. 

And when I say nothing but the bottom of the net, I don't mean nothing-but-the-bottom-of-the-net-after-it-went-through-the-top-of-the-net.

I mean nothing but net total-airball-barely-scraped-the-bottom-of-the-net-nothing but net.

I'm rusty, I thought. Shake it off.

So I dribbled a bit to the right for a 12-footer.

Suh-weet! Things were looking up. 

I hit the backboard.

After I chased the ball halfway down the court because it bounced off the glass with the force of a bullet shot from a .57 Magnum, I decided to try something a bit more conservative. 

A layup, I thought. Just make a layup. Because I knew once I made that first shot, it would all come back to me.

Implying, of course, that I once had it.

So I dribbled toward the basket. And as I got close, I let go with a nice little running underhand scoop. 

It was a beautiful shot, too. And it might have even gone in if the bottom of the rim hadn't gotten in the way.

It was at this point I began to realize my basketball skills weren't coming back. Because I suddenly remembered I never had any. 

Nevertheless, I refused to give up.

And so, in no particular order:

*I took a jumper from the top of the arc. Airball.

*I tried a three-pointer from deep in the corner. It clanged off the metal thingy that the backboard hangs on. 

*I fired up a one-hander from the left side. It went off the backboard without touching the rim and bounced back to the free throw line.

*I dribbled through my legs and took a quick shot from the top of the key. 

Well actually, that didn't happen. Because before I took the shot, I bounced the ball off the inside of my thigh. And then, off my foot.

Even my 10-foot patented turnaround jumper drew nothing but air. Which was funny for two reasons:

1. That I think I have a patented anything.

2. That I think I actually jumped. 

Yes, for 15 minutes, I put on one of the most pathetic displays of basketball in the history of basketball. 

And it wasn't so much that consistency of the missing, mind you. Which, to be honest, was remarkably consistent. 

It was the quality of the missing.

There was such a remarkable difference between where I apparently felt the basket was and the actuality of where the basket was, I thought I might have vertigo.

The good news is, I don't have vertigo.

The bad news is, I don't have vertigo. I just stink.

But wait. It gets better.

The basketball court I was shooting on is surrounded by a track. And as I quickly learned, the walkers and runners liked to watch people playing basketball as they pass by.

While you could make a reasonable argument that the game I was playing in no way resembled the game of basketball, still, they kept watching.

Which is why, naturally, every time I missed a shot, I'd stand there with The Look.

Y'know, hands by my side, staring at the ball bouncing off in the distance, and shaking my head in pathetic disgust as if to say, "How could I -- as good as I am -- miss such an easy shot?"

"What in God's name is wrong with me today, for chrissakes!"

Y'know. That Look.

The thing is, though, not even the Look can hide 114 consecutive missed shots. 

At some point, even the old lady with the headset listening to Glenn Miller had to start thinking, "Jesus, that guy is putting on one of the most pathetic displays of basketball in the history of basketball."

I noticed an older gentleman who would watch me take a shot every time he came around the track. With each miss, I would look at him. He, on the other hand, would immediately look the other way, trying to avoid eye contact.

As best I can tell, he did that for one of two reasons:

1. He didn't want me to feel more embarrassed than I already did.

2. If he saw the Look one more time, he was going to start laughing. 

The truth was, even if someone on the track wasn't intentionally watching me, it was impossible to not notice, because the ball kept rolling on the track and they'd have to throw it back.

Do you think while they were throwing the ball back they wondered, "What is he doing? Y'know, instead of making an idiot out of himself on the basketball court, this guy could be doing something constructive with his life, like preparing for his funeral, which will result from his inevitable heart attack. Or something."

Of course, when it was time for me to leave, I stubbornly said to myself that I wasn't going to walk off the court until I made three shots in a row.

Ten minutes later, I slightly revised my plan to "anything off the front of the rim and I'm outta here."

Which, not surprisingly, I nailed. On my fifth shot.

As I left, I noticed some of the graceful runners effortlessly making their way around the track. I saw a boxer off in the corner, jumping rope. And I saw the men and women in the weight room, sculpting their bodies with intense precision.

It was then when I realized the sad reality of my life:

It wasn't just basketball I wasn't good at. It was everything.

I had been blessed with zero athletic ability.

Thanks, God. Thanks for nothing.

In no particular order:

*I can't hit a baseball. 

*I have no speed.

*I can't judge a flyball.

*I tried to roller skate once and I broke my wrist.

*I tried to roller blade once and I nearly severed my hand trying to jump a curb.

*The first time I tried to ice skate, I clung to the sideboards with a five-year-old kid next to me. Half an hour later, the punk kid was flying by me asking, "Hey, how's it going, mister?"

*The last time I tried to ice skate, one of the workers at the rink asked me if I wanted an adult-sized pylon to keep my balance.

*Last winter I went sledding with my daughter and I steered her into a fence.

*When I was 12, I dropped a bowling ball on my toe.

*At 17, I shanked a golf ball into a guy's groin who was standing on the next tee.

*When I try to catch a Frisbee, I usually get hit in the forehead.

*I once tried to reach over to get the remote control and I fell off the couch.

*When I was a kid, I thought it would be a really good idea to ride my bike down a hill and take a shortcut home. My bike went down the hill. And I went down the hill. Unfortunately, we didn't go down the hill at the same time. When I got home, my mom looked at my face and screamed. 

And it wasn't the normal scream I heard when she looked at my face, either.

The bottom line is this:

Some people are born with the gift of speed.

Some people are born with the gift of superb hand-eye coordination.

I was born with the gift of male-pattern baldness.

Sure, I can talk a good game. I mean, I know what I'm supposed to do. 

It's just that when it comes to actually having to do something involving running, jumping, lifting, hitting or kicking, there appears to be some sort of miscommunication between my brain and my body.

I refer to it as a synapse problem. Others simply say, "You are a complete and utter spaz."

But this, this is my life. My sad, pathetic life. And at 41, there's not much I can do to change it, can I?

These are the cards I've been dealt. And we're not playing a hi-lo hand.

Surely at this point, you're thinking, "My goodness, this is a sad, sad story about a sad, sad man living a sad, sad life." 

But wait. Because here's where it actually gets funny:

Guess who's the coach of the Twinsburg Bengals second grade basketball team?

To answer your question, of course I'm not going to tell them how bad I am. These poor kids actually think I know what I doing. 

Fortunately, by the time they figure out the truth, I'll be dead. 

Which, with my luck, will probably be next week.

"Hi, Mrs. Coach? Um, so Mr. Coach has been lying under the basket for, like, four hours now. We think there might be a problem."

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