By Allan Ripp
I dribble across midcourt with the game clock flashing 10 seconds left and our team down by one. I fake left, but go right as a defender gets in my face, then step back and launch an arching shot to the hoop. It hits the rim but I deftly grab my own rebound and finger roll the ball in for a buzzer-beating win. The crowd erupts.
OK, reality-check rewind. I am walking in Central Park and pull a used hand warmer from my jacket pocket, which I proceed to lob at a nearby garbage receptacle. It misses the opening and slides feebly to the ground, where I scoop it up and deposit it in the cannister like a good citizen. “Nice try,” someone snickers passing by.
I haven’t been on an actual basketball court in years — or baseball diamond, football gridiron or other field of play. Nor have I ever filled out a fantasy football lineup. But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost my competitive drive or highlight-reel reveries. Slogging through my daily routines around the Upper West Side, greatness is always close at hand.
A rolled-up pair of socks is a Kareem-worthy skyhook to the hamper. A found acorn near the Reservoir becomes a strikeout pitch against a tree. And a stutter-step move past some lumbering tourists near Zabar’s gains first-down yardage towards the end zone on the next block. Sometimes, back in the park, I have to finesse my way around a shrewd defender guarding the basket – or is that just a raccoon rummaging through the trash at 90th Street?
Anyone who’s ever played sports dreams of clutch moments. As a kid, I could conjure nine innings of play-by-play excitement just by throwing a rubber ball against a wall, channeling performances from my gods Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson and Bill Mazeroski. It took but a Nerf sponge ball and a wastebasket to turn my shag-carpeted bedroom into Madison Square Garden for NCAA finals, match-up brackets included (all my friends did their own version of a cheering crowd).
You want sports betting? My son Asher and I wager big – how about $1 million if I land our dog’s stuffed beaver in the basket at the far side of the living room? So, I missed. Let’s go double or nothing on this crumbled ball of foil wrap into the kitchen trash, with a $500K sweetener if I bank it off a cabinet.
Recent research shows evidence of mood swings, anxiety and other mental-health risks among those who engage in fantasy sports leagues, no surprise given the obsessive, job-like stresses of running even a make-believe team with stats and trade deadlines. Fantasy sports is not the same as sports fantasy, which can strike anytime, anywhere.
I’ll never get to a Super Bowl or an Olympics, and long ago missed my chance at a Little League championship. But a shot at glory awaits me wherever I go – you just have to know where to find it. And your team never loses.
Mr. Ripp runs a press relations firm in New York.