There is a gut-wrenching video sequence on the internet of a young bloke taking a three-point shot (during the half-time of a pro basketball game), with a prize of one million dollars at stake.
Mike’s foolproof ritual
In the clip, the kid, Mike, starts off practicing his wrist-snap by flicking the ball into the air precisely four times. Next, deliberately, almost in a trance, he walks slowly down to a spot directly under the net where he stares up at the ring and seems to be visualizing the ball flying through the air and dropping through the hoop. He then goes back to his spot on the three-point line where he stares at the ring some more, then takes two practice shots without the ball. Mike then dribbles the ball exactly four times and, his flawless ritual concluded he, finally, lets fly with his shot.
The clip reminds me of a golfing date I once had with my mum when I was about ten years old. As a young pup I was a shit golfer… but, boy, could I putt. I was so good I could teach Jack Nicklaus how to putt. On this day, about a million years ago, I fluked a drive on a short par three to within a foot of the hole. One foot! I was about to get my first birdie! No doubt. I could not possibly miss from a foot. Seriously. I would have been an even money bet to nail a twelve-footer with a blindfold on and standing on one foot, so this pissy little shot was not going to be a bother.
My first birdie!
I got down onto my knees and examined the space between my ball and the hole for any unusual formations or deviations from the line. I strolled past the hole and lined up the shot from behind the pin. I then spent a few moments lining up the putt from behind the ball, as well. I walked back to the ball and set my feet precisely shoulder width apart. I took three practice putts right next to the ball. I addressed the ball with my putter then stared for several seconds at the ball. I then lifted my head slightly and stared at the hole for two seconds. I then returned my gaze to the ball for two more seconds. I then looked back to the hole. Finally, I settled my gaze upon the ball for the last time and stared menacingly at it for a full ten seconds. I took one, two, three deep breaths and as I breathed slowly out on the third breath I slowly and deliberately drew the putter head away from the ball. Carefully keeping my head down and steady I gently stroked the ball.
So much for ritual
I missed. I three-putted! Not only did I miss the one-foot putt, I missed the next one as well. Instead of nailing my first ever birdie I putted the ball a full foot behind the hole and missed the easy shot for a par coming back. I was so pissed I broke my putter across my knee.
My Mum was not happy at my tantrum. She said, “I’ll never play golf with you again!”
She didn’t. She was true to her promise. And I never played golf again!
Fortunately, I had just discovered basketball and replaced my love for practicing putting with an obsession for practicing free-throw shooting. In my first season of competition basketball I was a completely shit basketballer. I was so bad that I didn’t score a single field goal the whole season. Not even a lay-up. Even so, I was the only player on the team with a 100% record from the free throw line!
Poor Mike, the kid in the video. He concentrated so hard to nail his three and win his one million bucks, but all he got was an air ball. While I don’t know what it feels like to blow a million bucks in a moment I still figure I have some understanding of how he felt at missing the three. Mind you he faced his public humiliation with much more grace than I could have managed.
See Mike’s agonizing time in the limelight below…