Bankers and Basketball

I was sent this article on a basketball group I’m in which shows one JPMorgan VP taking rec bball too seriously (via Dealbreaker): http://dealbreaker.com/2012/01/jpmorgan-vp-plays-corporate-basketball-to-win-whos-with-him/

This guy obviously has a passion his team and basketball, and combining the two led to this amazing dissertation on the congruence of banking culture and coaching a basketball team. This VP’s attitude and knowledge about the game reflects the thoughts of many working professionals (such as myself) who constantly think about the game and how to make the teams one plays on better. I see a few parallels between this letter with a post I wrote early on called Post-Work Aggression.

One thing becomes instantly clear about this VP, is that he knows very little about basketball, and a lot about team motivation. If you read this letter under the lens of motivating a team, it’s actually pretty inspiring because it talks about exact plays and tactics the team will use to succeed in the next game. This is analogous to, I dunno, say a VP at JPMorgan talking about the investing and funding strategies his team will use to win over their clients. Unfortunately, those investment strategies are very different from basketball, unless things like “2-3 zone attack” and “shallow penetration” are like derivatives in the banking world. Perhaps I am too old school and haven’t kept up with the latest lingo for rec basketball defense and offense sets.

My hats go off to these guys who make basketball more serious than it needs to be, where the seriousness says more about team motivation than the game itself.

Playing nervous

A couple days ago, I played in a championship game for one of my leagues. It was a big game for us, since we’ve been to the championship two times before, and we have never been able to take home the chip. Going through the layup lines, all of us felt an extra sense of urgency, stamina, and seriousness to play well and finally win something bigger than ourselves and our team. Teams shook hands, found our spots on midcourt, and the ball went up for the tip.

The game was awful. The final score was 35-25, the lowest score our team has ever put up in the season. Unfortunately, we were on the losing end, not being able to pull out the win yet again. I’ve been here before, and every time the feeling is the same. You play nervous, anxious, and out of your element. It ultimately leads to a situation where you stop taking risks and think about all your moves before you even make them.

You forget the basics. How to play proper defense, how to dribble the ball, everything. Maybe it’s because we are not clutch when it counts, but simple things like dribbling the ball seem like the hardest thing when you are playing nervous and trying to not fuck up a play.

Each turnover gets magnified. Of course, in any game, turnovers are bad but in a championship game, your head hangs a little lower when you or a teammate turns the ball over. You get a little more frustrated which ultimately leads to more turnovers. Vicious cycle.

Someone else will be Superman. You have written yourself as not being able to contribute, as much as you want to. You can’t score, you play terrible defense, and all you can do is sit on the bench and watch. There is a tiny hope that someone else on the team will pick up the slack. You’re “go-to guy” who normally comes through in the clutch is also locked up. With no one to go to, you constantly hope someone will start scoring even though deep down you know there isn’t a player on the team that can break out on a run.

Losing is one thing, but to experience the loss with anxiousness and nervousness magnifies the loss even more. The next day all I could think about was the loss and what things I did wrong. I hate when these games take a toll on my mental well-being at work, but I can’t help it. Luckily Thanksgiving was around the corner and I stuffed my face to bandage the wounds.

Post-work court aggression

Working regular hours during the week, I rarely get a chance to play ball during the weekdays. The only league I play in is the Chelsea Piers league with some work folks early in the week. With the weather getting nicer, it’s going to be the outdoor 49th/9th courts again which is always a good place to sweat off the day of e-mails, meetings, and the sedentary work life.

I have quickly noticed a few things not only about myself, but of other players in this league during our night time games. The only way to describe this affliction is post-work  court aggression, and it’s defined as follows:

  • Complain more about fouls – It’s like we’re more entitled to the fouls, but it’s a direct result of people playing more aggressive and physical compared to weekend games. It ends up not being about technique, finesse, or playing as a team, but just playing physical and trash talking until you get your way. This aggression in turn causes more fouls, people complain more about fouls, and the refs find more excuses for not calling fouls. It’s a vicious cycle, but I’ve been on the worst end of this state of mind as well as completely removed from getting involved with the nonsense.
  • Violent comments – Today, this one dood straight talked for five minute about how he’s gonna hit somebody and doesn’t care if the refs throw him out. The refs only exacerbated the situation by not calming the guy down, but telling him why he’s an idiot for acting the way he’s acting. Just another way to blow off steam I suppose.
  • Ref mind games – Refs seem to have more of an attitude during these games, and seem to create this world of complete black and white where they are always right and back it up with emotional arguments. After I get called for a foul, there will always be a snarky comment about just “playing the game” and not “worrying about the call.” Refs are people to, and perhaps this is their outlet to reclaim their righteousness. The best games are the ones where you respect the refs and they respect you, and they call fouls without emotion. These weekday post-work games end up being filled with useless emotions and ultimately makes you the player more frustrated.

Tonight’s game was just plain frustrating, despite the last minute win. I found myself shooting off negative comments at my teammate, and realized I was blowing off my own frustrations with work on other people. I want to pass the blame, but the blame is on me for not getting to my man fast enough, and for not moving my feet faster.