Story 4
Home Up Story 5

Hubbard Glacier

There is little I can say about Hubbard Glacier that will do justice to its awe-inspiring immensity.

I will simply irritate you by saying pictures can't even begin to capture the grandeur. As they say, you have to see it to believe it.  It is too large for a picture.

So I will depart with one word.  Wow!

(PS - Yes, in case you are suspicious, I included a couple pictures of Glacier Bay as well. I didn't think you would mind.  But I did think you would be curious.)

The Basketball Story

Yes, that's me out there.

One reason I particularly looked forward to this trip was the opportunity to play basketball. The brochure indicated a basketball court was included onboard the Radiance.

My biggest problem with cruises is the incredible amount of food they make available. Including the occasional midnight buffets, you can eat four full-course meals a day!  If you don't step up your exercise schedule, it is pretty easy to take home an extra ten pounds.

My favorite form of exercise is basketball. I vowed this would be the first cruise where I returned weighing the same as when I left.

I am proud to say I succeeded thanks to a steady regimen of basketball during our days at sea.

Frequently I practiced alone.  I would get there early in the morning and just shoot some hoops all by myself.   Mind you we were passing the most amazing scenery, but after a while even the incredible forests and mountains lose some of their power.  My body needed exercise!

The Mystery of the Missing Shot

The great mystery was my total inability to make an outside shot.  Normally I am an accurate shooter. When left unguarded, I hit about half my 3-point shots and two out of three jump shots.  But not on this trip. I would hit 1 in 10 long shots and 1 in 5 jump shots.  I know these averages for a fact because during practice, I kept track.

Part of
it had to do with the movement of the ship which clearly affected my balance.  The ever-present ocean breeze didn't help either. I would watch in disgust as my high-arching shot would change directions in mid-air due to a gust of wind.

However I was at a loss to explain to my own satisfaction the riddle of why I couldn't hit a shot. Even when there was no wind my accuracy didn't improve much.

Complicating my confusion, there was one day I couldn't miss!  After we docked at Skagway, after the train ride there was plenty of time to go shoot some hoops before dinner. I shot very well. Afterwards I assumed I had finally gotten used to playing at sea, but then the next day on the way to Ketchikan I couldn't have hit the ocean much less the basket.

I lost complete confidence in a shot that had never failed me before. I felt like I could not hit an outside shot if my life depended on it.  When I came back to Houston, I told my friend Tom Tucker about my shooting woes. Tom is former high school basketball coach who occasionally gives me tips on how to improve my game.

I was actually just letting some frustration out by telling him about how badly I shot the ball. I didn't expect him to offer any advice. I had already chalked it up to the "motion of the ocean" and left it at that.  Let me add I was greatly relieved to see my accuracy return once back on land.

Tom listened carefully. He furrowed his brow, thought about it for a moment, then asked me a question. "Where was the basket situated?"  I explained how the basket was set up. "Were you shooting 'with' the motion of the ship or 'across' the ship?"

I told him I was confused.  Tom started over. "If the ship was heading north, what direction were you shooting at the basket?"

I said that I was shooting 'east' (which is 'starboard' for people with nautical minds.)

He laughed. "Then you were shooting at a moving target!"

I stared at him blankly. I had never been much good at science. I avoided physics like the plague back in high school. I had assumed that the ball's flight would stay proportional to the movement of the ship. It had never occurred to me the basket was moving!  It sure didn't look like it was moving.

Tom explained, "It takes 2 seconds on most outside shots for the ball to hit the basket after it leaves your hands.  If you were shooting across the ship's motion, I bet that basket moved at least an inch or two by the time the ball got there."

My mouth dropped open. Why didn't I think of that?  That explained why I was able to shoot in Skagway - the ship was docked!   The other times when the ship was moving I guess I should aimed at the rim instead of the middle! 

I am such a moron sometimes.

The Old Guy on the Basketball Court

Chris Rock, one of the funniest guys on the planet, tells a story about the "oldest guy in the bar."  In the opinion of Mr. Rock, hustling chicks in bars is a sport for young men, not old geezers.  He says he and his buddies always look for the oldest guy in the bar and laugh themselves silly at his pathetic attempts to act cool as he tries to pick up babes half his age. 

Mr. Rock then concludes by asking the audience to shoot him if someday they see him in a bar and he is the oldest guy. He says someone needs to put him out of his misery. 

I was the oldest guy on the basketball court. I was also pretty self-conscious about it.

My first day of basketball was pretty ho-hum. I played with a half dozen kids who ranged in age from eighth graders to high school freshman and sophomores. I spent most of my time passing the ball and shooting the occasional lay-up off a rebound.  Plus it was fun to stuff their shots now and then when they drove the lane.  I may have been old, but I was still taller than they were. Take pleasure where you can find it.

The kids were friendly and I had fun.

The second day was a different story. This time two college-age men showed up as well as three men in their late 20s/early 30s. Plus a talented group of older high school kids joined. Clearly the competition was ratcheted up several notches.

At 55, I was easily pegged as the old guy on the court. I did receive one left-handed compliment. One kid immediately tried to drive around me only to see me sidestep quickly and cut him off. The kid had to stop, pick up the ball and pass it. Then he looked at me in surprise and said, "Gee, you move faster than my Dad!  I can get around him and he isn't very old yet."  Thanks a lot.

From time to time various members of the SSQQ group would stroll by and tease me about my status as the Old Guy on the court.  They were amused by how out of place I was too.  They would aggravate me with lines like "What's wrong with this picture?"  However none of them ever took me up on my invitation to join them.  I was on my own.

In pick-up basketball, you change teams frequently unless you are on the winning team. Unfortunately I am sorry to say I was not the "Alpha" player on the court.  For one thing, I was handicapped by my inability to shoot from the outside. As I said earlier, I could not hit an outside shot to save my soul.  

Now without
my favorite 3-point shot beyond the arc or my medium range jumper, I only had two other ways to score - drive to the basket or post up and shoot close to the basket.  Since the other team had a 6' 4" jumping jack named Josh guarding the basket, my chances of scoring close to the basket on a post-up were pretty limited because he could block my shot with ease.  That meant the only way I could score was to drive the ball to the hoop for a lay-up and hope the big guy wouldn't get there in time.

I found myself matched up with a 17-year old named Greg. He had been on my team earlier and I had been very impressed with his ability. He was a gifted athlete who not only had the quickness to drive to the hoop, but he could make an outside shot even in the wind. How he did it I didn't know, but I was definitely envious.  One of the other kids said Greg was a starter on his high school basketball team.  Now due to the rotation of teams, I found myself guarding him and he was guarding me. Greg was 5' 10", just 2 inches shorter than me, but I had a 50-pound weight advantage. He was slender while I was… well, let's just say I was bigger.

When you are bigger, basketball wisdom says take the ball to the hole.  That's exactly what I decided to do.  I got the ball and immediately drove to the basket. My guess is that Greg did not realize I am left-handed because somehow I managed to blow right past him. I had a clear path to the goal. Just as I was about to shoot an uncontested lay-up, Greg pushed me in the back with both hands. I went flying!

I was scared because there were all kinds of obstacles behind the net and I was up in the air completely out of control.  Sure enough I landed very awkwardly and hit something. My heel caught the edge of a wooden bench riveted behind the net and I tripped.  Now even more out of control, I spun and fell backwards into the netting that surrounds the court.  The net broke my momentum and held without ripping.  Still off balance, I slumped to ground.  Before I got up, I took another look. Sure enough I confirmed the presence of several dangerous obstacles directly behind the net. There were two riveted wooden benches, the metal support holding the basket, and a water fountain.  I knew I could have been hurt very badly.

I was furious! This was a pick-up basketball game!  Nothing justified dirty tactics like this. I lost my temper. I got right in Greg's face and chewed him out. I told him if he pulled a stunt like that again, I would take his head off. And I meant it.

Just then someone grabbed me from behind and spun me around. It was Josh, the 6' 4" college freshman with the big shoulders.  He still had his hands on me and got right in my face. He looked me straight in the eye.  "Do NOT threaten him. Do you understand?  You will not threaten him or you will answer to me."

I saw no choice but to back down from Josh. The young man was a giant.  It was certainly not worth the risk of getting hurt in a fight with a powerful young man like Josh over a jerk like Greg.

Furthermore I now
understood why Greg was so brave - he had Josh watching his back. That's when I realized Josh and Greg were together. Later I discovered they were part of the a group that included 6 of the players out there - three pairs of brothers from the same town whose parents were taking the cruise together.  No wonder they were so tight.  Outnumbered, I swallowed my pride and decided to continue.

I picked up the ball and resumed play again. Two minutes later I got past Greg again. This time he merely grabbed my shirt from behind which caused me to miss my shot. Two minutes later I put up a hook shot. Greg fouled me by slapping me right across my face as he tried to block my shot. It was obvious that he did not want me to score and would do anything to stop me - push, hold, shove, or slap.  I was livid at his tactics, but this time I thought better of threatening him again.

Instead I told Greg right to his face that he was a dirty player. He said nothing back. He nonchalantly kept playing.  He was definitely cold-blooded. Apparently where Greg came from, these kinds of tactics were accepted and commonplace. By now it was pretty obvious that he was going to do whatever it took to stop me from scoring. Due to the motion of the ship I was having trouble shooting anyway so it seemed hopeless to even try to score anymore.  So I stopped shooting and concentrated harder on playing defense. I denied him the ball when I could and got right in his face if he did get the ball.  We canceled each other out. Neither of us scored the entire game.

Meanwhile there were a half-dozen high school kids who didn't like seeing me chew Greg out. They began a constant razzing from the sidelines. My new name was 'Rickman the Brickman' (a brick is basketball slang for a shot that doesn't even hit the basket).  I was now the guy wearing the black hat.  Obviously I had not won any popularity contests with the teen scene.  I seethed underneath, but kept my cool. 

My team lost the game handily. Afterwards I went up to Josh. I could tell Josh was not a thug. I apologized for losing my temper and yelling at his friend Greg. Then I added, "Josh, I have not been in a fight since Junior High School. That is not my way. But you saw what Greg did. He shoved me in the back, he grabbed my shirt, then he slapped me across the face. What am I supposed to do to protect myself?"

He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't care what you do; just don't hit him." Then he turned his back and walked away.

I played the rest of the day without any further fireworks. The fun was definitely gone. I know you wonder why I stayed. Maybe it would help if you knew they were using my ball which I had brought along on the trip.  If I had left, no one would have been able to play.  Probably would have served them right, but I stayed. 

I kept thinking over and over how I could have handled the situation better, but I never found the solution. If someone wanted to cheat and they had the support of all the other players, then there wasn't a thing I could do about it. I was helpless.

So much for the Old Guy on the Court.  Who ever said getting old was easy?

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