Sunday, October 26, 2008

Not Playing Ball in Hong Kong

If I'm being honest with myself, the truth is that a part of the reason that I've begun this blog is that since I sprained my ankle about 3 months ago, I haven't been able to play basketball.

This is the worst sprain I've ever had in the 25+ years that I've played basketball and I've had my fair share of ankle sprains over the years. At first, it was so bad that I actually went to the hospital to have the thing x-rayed, thinking the bone had to have been broken.

Two x-rays later, the doctor at St. Paul's Hospital expressed his surprise that no bone was broken and told me to go home and rest, ice, compress, and elevate.

I've done that. It's now 3 months later, but the damn thing is still a bit swollen and I've lost range of motion on it. (Damage to tendons, muscles, ligaments what have you) So Jene has been freaked out by my getting hurt so bad and has been telling me take it easy as I am not so young any more. But I've seen guys who kept playing well into their 60s. Go to Riverside Park on West 72nd St any Sunday morning)

I tried playing again about 3 weeks ago. It felt weak. And afterwards, it swelled up ridiculously.

Basically, the whole experience has gotten me a little down and much less cavalier about playing ball.

Prior to my injury, I was having a blast playing pick-up ball in Hong Kong even though the style of play here doesn't suit me at all and the general level of play is subpar to any city in the U.S. No one drives to the hoop. There's very little one-on-one moves. People play a very soft style and are more than willing to call phantom "touch" fouls that kids used to call in 2nd grade. To a lot of HK people, any contact is a foul.

I'm used to playing people who are a lot bigger and stronger than me back in the U.S. as that's whom I played with all my life. Here, I'm not always the shortest guy on the court, but I am nearly always the most aggressive and sometimes the only guy who'll take my guy off the dribble to the hoop. I rarely ever call fouls except when guys grab my arm with both hands and yank me down to keep me from shooting. Anything else, I figure is all fair and just part of the game. After all, a typical pick-up game has a lot of grown-men running about in a pretty small space. There's going to be some contact.

I remember the first couple of times I played with a group of oldtimers at Wah Fu Estate who run a Sunday morning game, they couldn't figure me out. I look Chinese, after all, but my style of b-ball was so different from theirs. They tended to pass the ball around the perimeter endlessly before launching some set shot. It sort of felt like playing with weird old Jewish guys who'd show up sometime at random playgrounds back in NYC, only the Jewish guys had more flair and would run backdoor cuts and throw behind-the-back passes.

Mind you, I've played ball all my life and surprise a lot of people who mistakenly peg me for a chump, but as far as being good, I peaked as a high school varsity player. Why? I'm small but slow, and I can't jump at all.

Still, there are times her in Hong Kong where I feel like I'm Godzilla. Maybe it's 'cuz I weigh more than the average Hong Kong man, but it's a trip outmuscling people for rebounds.

I was talking to a Filipino guy in my Cantonese class about the HK style of play. Talk about love for basketball, if a Filipino doesn't play ball, then he is not a true pinoy. (Back when I was in junior high, I used to play ball with a group of older Filipino guys back in NYC.) This guy basically summed it up and said, "The HK Chinese do play ball. Some play a lot and are even good. But they do not have any style."

I have to say that I have to agree with him. Very little style. Most people play as if they learned how to play from some gym teacher in PE class at school. The style is also very passive. This has tended to confuse non-HK people who do not play ball when I tell them this. Their view tends to be that HK people are rude, pushy, and aggressive, and are very surprised to learn that this doesn't carry over to basketball arena. Do I have an explanation for this?

Absolutely not.

Anyway, I pitched writing a story about the pick-up ball culture in Hong Kong to TIMEOUT HK, thinking it might make interesting reading.

They passed.

I still believe basketball may be the premiere sport here. Sure there is rugby and football and badminton, but in terms of sheer numbers, basketball is one of the few sports that HK people actually play. Just go to Wanchai, North Point, Victoria Park, or parks in Mongkok. They even have courts in Peng Chau, for crying out loud.

Whatever the case, playing ball here has been a lot of fun, and it was one of the few chances to get unmediated unstructured genuine interaction with local HK people. I've found HK people to be in general very distrusting of outsiders. Their guard goes up very quick. This was not so playing ball. I got to be a regular at a regular game in Wah Fu Estate on Sunday mornings. This was a great feeling.

Anyway, no basketball for at least another month. I want to rest it until at least after our big trip in November. Anyone know of a good court to check out? I know there's a full court in a cage in Hang Hau or Tsung Kwan O that I walked past and saw locals playing. It was behind LARDO'S.

Anyone ever play there?


Winifred said...

You might also want to check the court near the town square in Sai Kung.

re: your sprain

Have you been to a physiotherapist? Are you icing it regularly?

When I was in my 20s I got a very nasty sprain on my right ankle (bike accident) and it took about 4 months + some fairly intense physio (ice baths at the "rehabilitive sports medicine" center at the university I was then attending to bring it back to full use. I also wore an air-cast and did various tedious exercises.

The doctor who finally solved my problem explained that I had almost completely torn the ligament and that even when it heals, it will just kind of fill up w/ scar tissue.

It's now my "bad ankle" and from time to time if I've been using it too hard it will swell a bit & I have to go easy and ice it in the evenings.

mao365 said...

Hi Winifred,

I did ice it and wear an air cast at the beginning.

Now, I'm just moving it around a lot.

It's been almost 4 months. I'm not playing basketball yet, but I've done some snorkeling, swimming, and windsurfing on it.

My guess is it's sort of like your ankle that you describe and will also just kind of fill up w/ scar tissue.

I guess I'll just have to live with it.

Thanks for your suggestion.