Thursday, September 6, 2012

Leaving Lubbock

Here’s another reason why the APBA replay games are so important to me and how they are the talisman and worry beads during trying times.

Twenty-one years ago, I was in Lubbock, Texas, brokenhearted with no money and no plan. It sounds like a country music song, I know. And, in fact, when I resolved this issue, a country song popped up in my head. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Twenty-one years ago, I chased my heart to the west Texas town, following a girl who enrolled in a masters program at Texas Tech University. I tried to enter the Ph.D. program in English to be with her there, but my entrance scores were a bit low.  (Ain’t that great? I bomb an English test and have made my living writing)

I persevered, though, and after writing a persuasive letter about how tests don’t indicate the true performance and how real merit is determined by heart and blah-blah-blah,  I received a teaching position and paid tuition. Yes, I bluffed like a Texas Hold ‘Em player to get into a Texas university.

I moved into a dorm and shared a room with a kid who was way too happy and optimistic on life. He was 18. I was 31. It wasn’t good.

Then, the girl I was smitten with wanted to get married. But it was to someone else she found at the school. Made for an awkward dating situation. She dumped me and all I could do was retreat to my dorm room and watch the giddy roommate smile about classes, social events and life.

So, I spent a lot of time in west Texas bars when I wasn’t in classes, watching the American League playoffs unfold on television screens while sipping gin and off brand beer.

It wasn’t much of a life or a future. But then I remembered the APBA game. I called my mother and asked her to order the 1990-91 NBA basketball cards and have them sent to her home. I then began the process of dropping out of college, all the while preparing the season I would soon replay when I returned home. I made pages for each team’s schedule and prepared stat pages for the players.

It was the Polaris of my life at that time. The guiding star that something was ahead. I loved that basketball game for years and, after a hiatus from playing it while I pretended to be university material, I was looking forward to returning to the game.

I quit college on Oct. 21, 1991, to coincide with an off-day during the World Series. Minnesota was playing Atlanta that year and I didn’t want to miss a game. As I left Lubbock at about 5:30 a.m. that day, I looked in the rear view mirror as I passed the airport on the north end of town and that Mac Davis song about Lubbock hit me.

Yes, happiness was Lubbock in the rear view mirror and the APBA game ahead of me.

I made it home that night, unpacked my car and slept. The next day, I watched Game 3 of the Series and opened the box containing the APBA basketball cards.

I, the romantic dreamer who chased my heart into west Texas, was hit for a loop on that venture. For three months I taught English to high school-aged kids and I faked my way through Ph.D.-level courses. It was a stupid excursion and I told my heart to knock it off so something like that wouldn’t happen again.

But fortunately the heart didn’t listen entirely and the love of the game brought me back from Lubbock and through so many other trials of life, albeit scathed, but ready to roll more games.

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