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Those of you that have had the pleasure of witnessing me play basketball know that I’m about as far from being the next Michael Jordan as George Bush is from being a legitimate or competent president. On the list of things I consider myself capable of—learning foreign languages, living in a rusty town, eating raw horse flesh, etc.—playing basketball ranks near the bottom. Right there above wiping my ass with a $100 bill. Despite my best efforts, the concept of bouncing a ball on the ground (with only one hand, mind you) while running, evading other people bent on snatching said ball away from me, and then somehow getting it to fly into a cantaloupe-sized rim continues to elude me.

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And yet somehow two days ago I found myself suckered into playing a game or two with a local strawberry farmer’s son. It all happened so quickly, and before I knew it I was in a dank room signing a stack of endorsement contracts. Actually, this nightmare wouldn’t have come to pass if not for my fascination with watching bees collect honey. There I was making my rounds of the farms surrounding my school, ipod blasting over 9 gigs of tunes into my ears, when a truck pulled up behind me. A cheerful Japanese woman wrapped from head-to-toe in layers of sun-blocking garments—Japanese women are second only to Michael Jackson in their fear of the sun— slowly approached me. She extended her hand and offered me one of the biggest, sweetest strawberries I have ever had the pleasure of devouring. With wide eyes she watched me inhale the product of her toils, and then suggested I come meet her husband and son, who stood a few meters off to the side of the road.

Her husband was a nice enough fellow, but it was the son that caught my attention. Not for any salacious reason, but rather because of his age! He was 26 years old! Up until this point I assumed everyone under the age of 80, with the exception of my junior high and elementary students, had long since fled the youth-depraved desolation of Kagami. I was wrong. Apparently, he—I’ve forgotten his name already— remained behind to help his parents till their strawberry farm. An admirable decision, I suppose. Not what I would have done, but then again, I’m a selfish bastard. Anyway, it turns out this son of farmers, a lad of no more than 26, is a huge basketball fan. Of course, upon taking in my most deliciously mocha features, he assumed that I, too, must be a player of the basketball. I believe his exact words were, “tobe-sou da yo ne,” which translates as “You must be able to jump.” Jump? Why yes, strawberry boy, I am capable of jumping. But if you think that automatically means I can play basketball, you’re in for a big surprise. A big, clumsy surprise.

“Great! Why don’t you join my buddies and me for a game next Wednesday?” No way in hell, I thought to myself. What if word gets around to my elementary kids that their sports god, Ellison-sensei, is actually an impostor. A poser, some might say. What then? How would I be able to ever look them in the face again? Imagine the lives that would be ruined. Ruined, I tell you! No, it’s better if I just decline. So what if I lose my newfound strawberry connection. At least the children will have been saved. Yet instead of a swift denial, I replied with a, “Sure! That sounds like fun.” Dammit! How did that happen?

Stay tuned for more on my glorious return to the world of basketball…

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