Story:Weighed and Measured
Weighed and Measured
Written by Mitch
Weighed and Measured
Monday, August 31, 2020
Adge Martin’s hotel room in Plymouth, Massachusetts was neat and tidy. His bags were packed, all his rubbish bagged and tied off. The bed was stripped and bundled separately to make things easier on housekeeping, and every surface was left clean and orderly. It was an island of calm precision amidst the ocean of chaos he found himself in.
The combine was over, and it had not gone as well as he hoped.
For all his effort, all his work, and even his recent performance at the Olympics, the big hare had come in sixteenth… behind thirteen other guards. Thirteen other guards he now had to hope he could contend with in the hopes of making it into the Top 24 Games. Yes, he might go as a forward, but nothing was certain. There were other forwards who had also done better than him, and surely the league wanted to balance the games, right? Strength, huge vertical, great mid-range and close scoring, those things he had done well in. Speed had been his downfall, as it had cost him any possible points in sprints and agility.
But he was a hare. Wasn’t he supposed to be fast and agile? Or had he been cocky, and found himself beaten out by the tortoise, as in the old fable?
No, he told himself. If anything he might have been too reserved; not wanting to come across as cocky or a braggart. Perhaps he should have. Maybe that would have served him well in his results. But it was too late to consider that now. What was done was done, and he found himself staring at his room, unsure about his future more than ever before.
Over the course of nearly the last whole month, Adge had known what was coming next. His flight to Japan for the Olympics, then the rigid structure of the games, followed by intense training and his flight to America for the rookie combine. There it was more training, every day, on top of the schedule of events. And as of last night, it was over. The Top 24 would not be announced until later in the day, after check-out.
After check-out. It meant additional expense on Adge’s part, though the expense had been limited with the reservation of a budget motel in the area for the next night. If he made the list for the Top 24 Games, he’d stay there through the week in order to attend and try for a better showing of his skills, then fly out to Las Vegas for another cheap stay so that he could attend the draft. And if he didn’t make the cut, well, it was back home to England, and he wouldn’t be attending the draft in person as he dreamed of. The cost was simply too high.
Cost. It was his issue with everything, it seemed. His whole life had been lived on a budget, and even after accepting a loan his agent practically insisted he take out, the hare was loath to spend what he didn’t have to - especially after quitting his job. Every dollar, every yen, every pound, they were all tracked in his brain, adding up onto an ever-growing expense report. With each purchase, that report grew longer, weighing upon him harder. It was silly, he told himself, as he was highly likely to get drafted, but his ego still found itself getting in the way.
Perhaps it had been ego which got in the way during the combine. Not consciously, of course, but the constant fear of failure, of not measuring up, of letting his family down, it was like a ball and chain he had to drag. His whole life had led up to this, it was the one thing he was meant to do, and he found he wasn’t as good at it as he thought.
Again he shook his head to clear those ever-present doubts. No. No no no, he hadn’t let them down. He’d done everything they’d asked of him, and more. Being sent to London for school was their decision. Playing basketball to try and make it big was their decision. Everything he had done, he had done for them. He was an Olympian, because of their decisions, and he’d made it to the FBA rookie combine, and placed decently. They couldn’t ask for more. It had to be enough, right?
But was it for them, really? Adge sat on the edge of his bed, considering it in silence. They had given him a path to follow, but it had been his own drive, his love of the game, which had allowed him to run that path. A bull-headed insistence that he wanted to play shooting guard despite being too big and heavy for it had earned him a starting spot in his favored role on his University team. His work ethic had made that role work for him, even with everyone saying he should be a power forward, instead. He had practiced, trained, and drilled harder than any of his fellow guards, just to make it work. He had focused to overcome his physical drawbacks, and instead turn them into advantages in other ways. He was the shooting guard other teams feared to face, because there wasn’t anything like him in their league, and he had done all that himself.
And perhaps for himself. Behind every play, beneath every workout, and woven into each drill, a more tranquil memory remained as a calm within the storm. The farm. Long days as a boy working the fields, tending to the livestock, running tractors and harvesters, the memory felt as pure as gold, and twice as valuable. An easier time, despite the hard work, when everything seemed to just slow down and felt right. Adge’s family had moved on from the farm, over the last four years, but he had not. He still lived there, in his mind, and longed for it at the end of every day, catching glimpses of the fields just before his world drifted into slumber.
Some ballers play for the fame, others for money, and some for pure love of the game. Adge Martin played for a farm, and a boyhood he wished to recapture. His path had been chosen, but he knew it would lead in a circle back to the beginning, if he ran it hard enough. He had to make it work, there was no other way. While some of his competitors had everything handed to them on a platter, and couldn’t recognize their own advantages, Adge had worked for everything he had in life, and this would be no exception. Even if he didn’t place where he wanted, he would work his way to the top. Everyone underestimated the hard work of a farmer, but he would show them. Show them just as he showed Elion what he could do.
A ping from his phone interrupted the hare’s train of thought. Getting up from his bed, Adge unplugged his phone from its charger, and firmly pressed the pawprint sensor to unlock it. It was a message from Callum, who had all-but disappeared after the events of the combine, last night. Apparently there was ice cream to be had down in the coffee shop, left over from his room party. Ice cream, and a bit of farewell chat. Smiling, Adge put the water in his coffee maker on to boil, and dropped a tea bag into one of the paper travel cups next to it, then messaged that he’d be down in a few minutes.
True to his word, he was there, steaming cup of tea in paw, finding Callum, Zack, and Saphira all there already. Taking a seat, Adge joined them for some possible farewell banter, as well as worries over whether or not they had made the Top 24. Among those at the table, Adge had the lowest ranking, and so he wound up saying the least, merely trying to keep up a brave face and act like it wasn’t bothering him.
It was a brave face he’d mastered at Elion, where he knew virtually everyone else in the school were better at most things than he was, except for basketball. And how he found himself at a table where everyone was better at that, as well. Ice cream, tea, ice cream, he kept his mouth either full or shut for much of the conversation, smiling and nodding along as others spoke. There was talk of what to do between now and the games, and some mild worry was present in most of those attending, as the roster hadn’t been posted yet. It was the other shoe everyone waited for to drop, yet it seemed to hang there over their heads, taunting them like the sword of Damocles.
As checkout time neared, Adge had to excuse himself, so that he could gather his bags and catch a hire car to his motel for the night. There he dropped his things off in his room, finding it far less luxurious than the one he’d just checked out of, but it would suit his needs. Another car back to the main hotel, and he rejoined his companions, all waiting for the list to be posted.
Everyone tried to make the best of it, talking about plans, but the fact of the matter was that almost no one could make them yet, so everything was purely a hypothetical. Those hypotheticals began to reach… interesting proportions by the time early evening rolled around, and every few seconds, someone would glance at the board, as if the list might have magically appeared.
Of course, lists don’t appear, they’re posted by an official, and a hush fell over the hotel lobby as just one such official strode in, bearing a folder in one paw. You could hear the rustle of laminated paper against the manila of the folder as the page was drawn out, and several flinched, almost feeling the push-pin pierce it, mounting it to the board. Then the official turned and headed off, and the silence hung heavy and dangerous.
No one wanted to be the first to jump up, and appear desperate to find themselves on the list, but the whole lobby felt the same hunger. A few seconds passed, a few more and heads began to turn, looking at each other, before a cacophony of chairs sliding, bodies moving, and shoes and bare footpaws clapping upon the polished marble floor of the lobby as the bulletin board was mobbed by hopeful ballers!
Adge started his rush, but as in the combine, found himself outpaced to the board, and he had to carefully muscle through to see the list. Starting from the top, he worked his way down the list to find his name, only to stop at the very first line.
There, in Century Gothic Bold, was his name. Adge Martin. He was in.
He was in!
Unable to contain himself, the hare leapt up, punching a fist toward the heavens as he barked a celebratory, “Oo-arr!,” which echoed through the lobby.
Of course, he wasn’t the only one making noise. Squeals of delight, choruses of yesses, and a few choice words, were all uttered in the hubbub of mixed celebration and sadness. Spotting Zack Cooper, Adge couldn’t resist snatching the beaver up in a massive hug, lifting him off his feet. “We’re in! Ah made it! Yew made it! We’re in!” Adge laughed, finally letting Zack down, before giving Callum a big hug as well. His joy was infectious, and a few more hugs went around, along with pawshakes, claps on the back and a high five or two.
Slowly the chaos dissolved into a semblance of joyous order, with congratulations going around, and commiserations to those who were still there, and had not made the list. Adge knew he’d likely be playing forward than guard, but he didn’t care; he was in, and that was enough for him to make up for a less-than-stellar showing in the combine. It would be a proper game where he could show proper skills on the court. And he would be working on his speed and agility in the meantime, to show everyone he meant business.
But that night was not about business. It was about celebration, and dinner, and making actual plans instead of hypothetical ones. Cheering on new friends, and encouraging others. But first, of course, Adge had to call his mum!
He had been weighed. He had been measured. And in the end, he had been found… proper.