Another Writing Exercise from the Archive – Broken Back Basketball

bigchairbook More stuff stumbled upon during my prep to move my junk to Florida. As before this was another one called a Quick Draw Visualization Exercise. The instructions and story was written the day after the first one posted, over 12-years-ago, on March 6th, 1996… It should have been written closer to Halloween:

INSTRUCTIONS: Please do not show the photograph or the title of this piece to the students until the end of the exercise. Read the following story with as much dramatic license as you are comfortable with (the idea is to put an image with emotional impact in their minds). After the reading they need to spend 15 minutes (max.) producing their picture of what they thought they’d heard. Emphasis that this is not about their artistic expertise but to help them develop their ability to get the ideas in the their heads on paper (visualization)—an important step to good writing!

The face in the photograph made me think of a nightmare I had when I was seven or eight-years old. I used to love basketball. Just like you guys, every day before school, every recess, every lunch I’d be bouncing the big orange ball. I loved it so much that my dad put a hoop and backboard up above our garage (he was also probably just tired of hearing my brother and I hit the garage door when we would pretend to have a net). And at night, the Lakers were on the radio and I’d listen to Chick Hearn talk a thousand words a minute about some incredible play they’d be making. In a word, I had basketball on the brain.

Then one night I went to sleep and dreamed that I was at a Laker game. I was still too young to know any of the players but there I was standing courtside watching this one player making lay-ups. The whole arena seemed to be empty except for me and this player making lay-ups and some coaches walking along the sidelines. The whole place was dark except for where this guy kept circling. I was standing just outside the light. Then he started to do slam dunks. I don’t remember how many he did. I just remember that he was jumping higher and higher; higher than I had ever seen anyone jump. Then it happened.

He jumped up to slam one and he jumped so high that when he started to come down he hit the rim with the center of his back. I heard this horrible crack and looked away. I knew he’d broken his back. When I turned back around he lay on the floor in a heap, his legs and hips didn’t seem to be connected to his upper body anymore.

The coaches came running over to see what had happened. With one coach on either side of him they picked him up off the ground. Each coach had to grab the basketball player with one hand on a shoulder and the other hand at his hips, literally holding his body together. I knew that if the coaches let go of him that he’d fall to the floor like a pile of sticks. Then he started bouncing the basketball again and the coaches walked around with him in little circles. His legs barely worked and he almost didn’t seem to realize that he’d been split in two.

This went on for several horrible minutes. I couldn’t stand to watch, but I couldn’t look away. His body bent and broken with two coaches holding him together he just kept bouncing the ball and walking in little circles. I wanted to run. But where? And then he suddenly turned and stared me dead in the eyes and I saw his craziness, that he had become some kind of deformed monster. Then I suddenly woke up. jbb

(Click the link to see the original photograph that inspired the story)


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