I was playing some pickup basketball today. This guy on an opposing team — he’s there almost every time I play but he doesn’t talk much — had a friend on his team today who was on a hot streak. They were doing well as a team, winning games, so the guy who never talks felt a bit bolder than usual. His team took the lead in a tight game against my team, and ended up beating my team. This guy had started trash talking during the game, more speaking than I have heard him do over the course of 3-4 months, in about 5 minutes.
Such is the world of pickup basketball.
Me, I’m a veteran of trash talk so it’s nothing to me. The interesting thing is, the aforementioned talker will return to his normal self — nondescript, rarely-a-factor-but-servicable player — next time he plays. But in the moment of victory, ego is a powerful thing.
I never forget trash talk.
I came up playing street basketball in Mt. Airy; I heard and seen it all on those courts from arguing to fistfights to weapons brandished over game outcomes. I used to be a much more reactive talker, all the way up through my early post-college years. Talk would spill off the court and linger in my mind for days or weeks and carry over into non-basketball aspects of my day. That was a waste of energy. Now, I can look at things a bit more long-term while still focused on the present moment.
High school teammates of mine used to talk shit about my lack of playing time. Wasn’t much I could say back; I didn’t play much at all so their talk was based on actual facts. I had to keep quiet. College teammates, after I got kicked off the team, felt they had the upper hand on me in our basketball lives for the time being; and since they were playing college basketball and I wasn’t, I couldn’t say much back.
Now, 10-15 years later, I don’t have to say anything about any of them. Life has settled that score. As you can see, I haven’t forgotten.
The key is to be able to separate what needs to be reacted to in the moment from what you can store away for later reference. What I mean is, I can turn the heat up when I need to in the current game when someone decides to speak. I can also, though, store away moments in my mind (like the guy who got bold today — we didn’t face each other again, and actually ended up on the same team for a game later. I’ll see him again and the game outcome will be my reply) and marinate on them for next time.
The world is small. You see people again. And that boastful energy you had in one moment could color that relationship forever. So, be careful what you say or do when you’re feeling on top. Especially if you know you don’t belong or can’t stay there.