In Tennessee Williams’s famous play, the question is asked, “What is a victory for a cat on a hot tin roof?” Maggie’s answer: “To stay on it, I guess.” And so it is with the NBAE and show business in general. The game is to remain in it. Every year, the commissioner reviews the status of the participants and lops some names off to make room for rookie invitees. Actors whose careers have gone cold are evicted. Producers who haven’t gotten a film made lately—sayonara. Rumor has it that much of the cast of the film Coach Carter is on the chopping block, since few have been acting regularly since that film, which required a specific athletic skill set not universally in demand. Naturally, if you win a major award, an Oscar or a Grammy, then you are inoculated against the annual review. Jack Welch used to require executives to evaluate subordinates and fire the bottom 10 percent. The commissioner is not above such steely-eyed tactics. I think most of the players on our squad will make the cut next year, but on the Houston Rockets roster, there appear to be many a player on the bubble. That should motivate them to play with aggression, an attempt to make the most of their opportunities to participate.
Our Pistons take each game very, very seriously. I even decided it was time to go on a diet. The weight loss enhances my conditioning and reduces the neck wattle. Ever since my asthma, I’d wanted to drop the weight that accumulated as a result of my medications, and the NBAE finally made me do it. For a few months, I was blasting my bronchial inflammation with the steroid prednisone, which causes all manner of side effects, including a ravenous appetite, dowager’s hump, and moonface. If you want to examine the damage it can do, just watch a Jerry Lewis interview on Larry King.
It’s not pretty.
In order to shed pounds, I have been eating less and going to the gym more, which pleases the Captain, since he is basically the mayor of Bodies in Motion. I usually repair to the treadmill for a three-mile run while he saunters over to the empty bike room and pedals feverishly. I try to multitask and do some reading if possible. The Precor machines and StairMasters are littered with sweat-stained copies of Us, People, and InStyle magazines. I know far more about Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey, Adam Levine, Nicole Ritchie, and DJ AM than I care to. Most of their high jinks seem to take place at the Chateau Marmont, where a writer friend of mine—whose first novel, about the soulessness of young, coke-snorting Angelenos, took its title from an Elvis Costello song—is staying. He e-mailed me that Los Angeles makes you hate yourself for all these things you never wished to be. That statement has the cold ring of truth. L.A. has the gyms, therapists, and plastic surgeons to prove it. I do know that I can always count on one thing at Bodies in Motion: a pristine copy of the New Yorker. Lonely, untouched, its pages crisp. The New Yorker is Bodies in Motion kryptonite. Most members would rather pick up crabs than a copy of the weekly.
After we complete our cardio, we lift weights. The Captain had a sly look on his face as he walked over to the bench press, towel draped over his bulbous deltoid. It turns out he is on some insane mega-protein regimen involving power bars, powders, and supplements. Needless to say, the human digestive system has not evolved to silently and efficiently process such a diet. His chatty colon mimics the sound of a Canada goose being strangled. It was reminiscent of a lugubrious military bugler at a funeral. The Captain doesn’t like any talk of bodily functions or sexual activity, which seems to be linked in his Catholic psyche. “Look,” he says, “I assume everyone gets laid—I just don’t need to hear about it.”
The excessive release of gas resulting from his gut-crunching protein consumption sends the Captain to a dark, solitary workout room, away from the masses of exercisers. As the Captain was busy racing his stationary bike, a Bodies in Motion employee barged into the room with two prospective members. Big mistake. They paid the price. A look of horror was etched on their faces as they bolted out of the room. The smell wafting out could best be described as extremely unfavorable to the nose. The benefit of being in the room alone: any Ignatius J. Reilly-esque eruption goes unrecognized. The danger: should anyone walk in, there is nowhere to hide—they know the culprit.
He who smelt her is not necessarily the one who dealt her.
There were no new memberships purchased on that day.
We finished our weightlifting routine and headed to the locker room. After relaxing in the whirlpool, we usually get a steam. The gym recently installed two powerful xenon-magnitude lights that pierce the shroud of fog and illuminate the room in a harsh white light. The idea is to prevent it from becoming a gay pickup scene. The showers now also have curtains. One gym member, known as “the Giraffe,” had a tendency to crane his elongated neck and peer over his shower stall at unsuspecting neighbors. While in the steam or showers, we usually discuss the league, where we stand, what might happen next year. Show business is a cruel mistress. It’s highly unstable and one never knows when the next movie will get made or where it will come from.
With that in mind, we play with an attitude of making each game count. So when the Rockets put up little resistance, we stayed after it, exerting a high level of energy and effort. It served us well, as we blew them out. The margin of victory was 24 points, and it wasn’t that close. We may not always win, but we try to make the most of our league opportunity.
We are now 7-3 with four games to go, two of which are against good teams. It’s the homestretch before the playoffs and the chase for a ring. Next up: last year’s NBA finalists, the San Antonio Spurs.