There I was lying on my back looking at the ceiling in dismay. "How could this have happened?" I thought. A half-hour ago I was brushing up on my NBA Street skills with my team of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and an animated version of myself on my PlayStation 2. Big alley-oops, thrashing drives to the hoop, classic blocks by K.G., and the occasional deep shot by Pierce. Everything was going great, we were working as a team, passes were smooth and better yet, my team was coming off 17 straight wins.
While on this winning streak, I thought it would be a good time to introduce my girlfriend to the world of 3-on-3 street basketball. This is a person who has little interest in video games, and on most occasions, doesn't enjoy seeing me play video games. It mainly comes down to the fact that when I'm focused on the television, I'm not focused on her. True enough. But secretly, I felt playing video games was a way to show off my mad skills.
Even though I know my girlfriend can be a fierce competitor – she recently qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:23 – when it comes to our relationship, we never feel like we are in competition with each other. So I was mainly looking to show off when I invited her to play.
The strategy was easy: Give her a perceived edge with a stacked team, let her win the first game, and then crush her in the second. So we established a strong offensive and defensive team built around a strong inside man, Shaq, and two great outside shooters, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. After that, I slowly went over the defensive and offensive controls, gave her a few tips on blocking and passing, and then we tipped off.
During the first game, I played hard, but I stuck to the plan and let her win. She sunk a deep two-pointer from the corner to seal the win. I quickly insisted on a rematch, convincing her that the loss was a fluke. But something was bothering me: She was throwing down big alley-oops that made me cringe. Is she showing off? Had she been practicing when I wasn't around?
She easily knocked down my animated player when dunking with Shaq. Each time I flew across the screen, I was haunted by violent flashbacks of my high school basketball career, when I spent most of my time lying on the floor. To make things worse, she couldn't stop laughing. I had been playing this game for weeks, racked up 2 million trick points, beat the computer on numerous occasions, and now my novice girlfriend was showing me up. Winning was going to be more difficult than I had originally thought.
We decide to play one more – the tiebreaker. This time, there was no holding back. My plan was to run up the score as much as possible – never letting up. But before I knew it, I was down by five points. I started thinking about what would happen if I lost – the embarrassment would be too much to handle. So, I started mixing up drives with trick plays – something I hadn't taught her – but drastic times called for drastic measures. I was not going to lose today. The point spread dwindled and I was making a sports comeback that rivaled Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
But the momentum proved to be short-lived. The rookie player from Modesto, Calif., wasn't giving up. Her tenacity was almost frightening. With the dynamic duo at the helm, the points tilted in her favor. I couldn't stop Shaq. Kobe kept streaking up the court, launching himself from 30 feet out and slamming the ball down my throat. It was all happening too fast. I was at the mercy of someone who doesn't even like video games.
Playing with the skills of a veteran, she blocked my winning shot, grabbed the rebound, knocked it out to Shaq, who then drove down the court straight at K.G. But instead of laying it in, which I was prepared for, she kicked it out to Nash. Without hesitation he hammered the big shot or, in this case, the final nail in my virtual coffin.
So later, when I was relaxing on my bed and staring into space, I tried to understand how it all had happened. How could I have lost?
Then another wave of dread hit me. She's going to brag to all of our friends about beating me. I can see it now: We're at a restaurant having a great time with our friends, everyone is enjoying themselves. Just as I finish telling the guys a great story that highlights my machismo, she'll pipe up, "Did you tell them about the time I beat you at NBA Street ... twice?"
Then what? What am I supposed to say? I'm going to be ridiculed and she'll think it's funny – again. Let me tell you, it is not funny.
I don't care if a guy says he doesn't mind if his significant other beats him at one of his own video games – he's not a happy camper. Listen up, here are a few words to live by: Never take a bone from a hungry dog and never beat your boyfriend at one of his favorite video games. The consequences could be disastrous.
OK, maybe it's not that bad. It's just a game after all, and not even a real one at that.
Our relationship continues, but now I spend more of my time reading books. I'd like to put the whole thing behind me, but much to my dismay, she's already scheduled a rematch.
This time, she said, she'll take it easy on me.