For the third consecutive year, in the tradition of batting against John Rocker and playing touch football with Andre Rison and Kordell Stewart, we accepted an invitation from the fine folks at "Pros Vs. Joes" to — get ready — play two-on-two hoops against Charles Oakley and Charles Smith. At Madison Square Garden. We were wearing a specialty-made Jeffrey Jordan "jersey" our father got us for Christmas; Daulerio, a brave man, donned a Tyrone Hill jersey. How'd we do? Come, join us after the jump. And by "jump," since we're talking about us, we mean "rising three inches off the floor."
Daulerio came all the way up from Philadelphia to play this morning; we took the court at 7 a.m. We really can't believe he had the cojones to wear the jersey of a man Oakley was slapped for owing him money. Though sometimes we wonder if there's anyone on earth Oakley didn't slap for owing him money.
We don't mean to sound all Fawny Lupica here, but there really is nothing like stepping onto the floor of Madison Square Garden and shooting warmups. To think: Isiah Thomas lords over this court every night. Sadly, he was not there to scout, though, to be fair, not even he would have signed us.
It is worth noting that Charles Oakley didn't appear particularly amused by Daulerio's jersey choice. All told, Oakley wasn't amused by anything; he either didn't want to be there at all, generally looks like he wants to kill everybody in the room ... or both. Probably both. As we warmed up, he just glared off into space, wondering what Michael's up to, realizing that had he not gotten a little too cocky in that poker game the other night, he might never have been forced to sign up for this ridiculousness.
Or maybe he was deliriously happy and just looks like that all the time. It's Oak. You never know.
Worth noting: Our warmup session did not exactly inspire fear in the hearts of our opponents. (We think we airballed a dribble. We're not even sure how that's done, and we did it.) This kid, however, was unconscious; we didn't get to stay for his game, but the guy was draining NBA threes from everywhere. He can also grow facial hair better than we can.
Finally, warmup was over, and we sat to the side while a bleary-eyed announcer introduced the Knicks City Dancers. This was surely the earliest any of these women had ever been up in the morning; they dance for about 25 seconds. And it was still enough time for Patrick Ewing to have sex with half of them!
We were slated for the second game. In the first game, two of the "Joes" from the show took advantage of a clearly bored — and cold — Oak/Smith combo and, somehow, won. (Everybody played for seven minutes.) This was clearly the worst possible scenario for us. Not only was the veneer of invincibility gone, Oakley and Smith would be more warmed up now ... and pissed off.
So, after the loss, they had a pow-wow. This made Daulerio and us extremely nervous.
But, we had the ball first, because they were being sporting. We hadn't really designed any plays; in fact, we hadn't played basketball at all in about six months. Against two angry, competitive, cranky men ready to take our their frustrations. What could possibly go wrong?
OK, so Oakley didn't actually elbow us to the floor. (Though Daulerio claims he did get a shoulder when he tried to talk trash, whatever that means.) But we thought it was a cheap and funny visual joke after the setup. Forgive us.
So how did it go? Well, we'll put it this way: We figured any hope we had of winning would have to revolve around a perimeter game. And Charles Oakley was draining more shots than we were. It was gonna get ugly fast. We couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong.
It's possible they might have had a bit of a size advantage. Oakley and Smith jumped out to a spirited — as spirited as Oakley can be about anything — 7-0 lead ... and we were the ones winded. Fortunately, the "fans" were far away from the proceedings and might have missed it.
Oops. We suppose not. The worst part about this was not that we were losing; we expected that. The worst is that we were terrible. Neither we nor Daulerio have ever considered ourselves world class athletes — really! — but we were exhausted, pathetic and beaten ... just two minutes in! Our friend Aileen, who took these pictures, called us "old and unskilled." That was nice of her, particularly because she was exactly right. Five years ago we would have joked, "we're not teenagers anymore." Now, nearing our mid-30s, we started to realize that we didn't have youth anymore to sustain us or overcome our lack of natural ability. We were just old. We were the sad people in the fantasy camp we used to make fun of. Except we had hair. For now.
You see, now this is a shot that just doesn't have much hope of going in.
Like Rock'n'Jocks on MTV back in the day, the Pros Vs. Joes producers had given us a Break In Case Of Blowout button; any shot from halfcourt was five points. We would have needed to hit about three. At least the one we tried hit the rim. The best we could do was pull off one nifty backdoor play. The reaction of the crowd was not excitement; it was surprise.
After we missed this halfcourt shot, the ball bounced back to us. Charles Smith, who had been "guarding" us, backed off. "Go ahead, man, chuck it again." He was really nice about it, actually. We had never felt so much like a kid from the Make A Wish foundation. We obliged by trying to drive past him. He obliged by blocking our shot. We deserved that.
As the game mercifully wound down, we made one last dive for a last ball. We lost it, and we heard, from the sidelines, "good hustle, man, good hustle." We looked up, and standing over us was ... John Starks! He was "coaching" Oakley and Smith. But mostly: He was just smiling and having a good time. He was an awfully nice guy.
Like most of you, we remember Starks for his horrific Game 7 performance in the 1994 NBA Finals, when he went 2-for-18 and essentially cost the Knicks the title. As we looked up at him, applauding us, cheering us on ... well, John Starks was 2-for-18 once in his life, causing people like us to mock him for it. And this is how he returns the favor. We felt kind of 2-for-18 for life right there.
So we benched ourselves, and, around noon, we were finally able to breathe correctly again.
Photos by Aileen Gallagher. You can find the full set of photos right here.
(UPDATE: The Pros Vs. Joes people just sent us two shots from their cameraman — Al Bello/Getty Images for Spike TV — that sum up the experience right well. They are below. We lost 14-3, by the way.)