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Elan Mehler – bigger than you since ’79

March 31, 2009

I didn't want to play anyway...

Excuse me while a vent a bit. I am tall. Six foot eight if you have to ask. And evidently you do, because I get asked daily. I used to carry business cards that said 6’8″ on one side and “No, I don’t play basketball” on the other, but I ended up going through those pretty quick and I had to just hold up my last one like a deaf mute and just wave it at people until they went away. Supposedly Wilt Chamberlain, when asked “How’s the weather up there” used to spit on people and say “I hear it’s raining”. I never quite had the balls to do that. Old ladies tend to compare me to someone in there family who is tall (usually around 6’2″)…

Old Lady:  How tall are you?
Me:  6’8″
OL:  Oh, I have a nephew who is 6’1″
Me:  I’m much taller than your nephew.

People yell out numbers on occasion, apropos of nothing…
Some Random Short Person:  6’2″? 6’3″
Me:  (steely determined gaze)
SRSP:  6’6″?

I of course get asked about basketball pretty regularly, and to my shame I actually have finally caved to society’s pressure and do play basketball now, mostly pickup games in Brooklyn where my height doesn’t get much comment as I’m routinely getting dunked over by fourteen year olds. However, I never played in high school, preferring to play piano and smoke too much weed. I spent a year or two telling anyone that asked me that I was a bench player for the Celtics. This however had the adverse effect of starting a conversation I was woefully under prepared for. I also have told people that I played basketball until a debilitating torn ACL in my right knee (which is actually true, but I tore it playing ultimate frisbee, which is like basketball for stoners).

I also have tried to feign surprise:
Aging Pedestrian:  Do you play basketball?
Me: (Look of astonishment, smack self in forehead) Of course, stupid! stupid! I will now, thank you sir.

I felt a bit better when I did get approached by a guy who was a bit taller than me who asked the ubiquitous question…
Me:  You of all people should know better than to ask me that question, I’m 6’8″.
6″10″ man: I’m six foot ten and I don’t even play basketball!
Me:  Me neither
6’10″ man:  Yeah, but you’re white! You have any idea how hard it is to be a 6’10″ black man and not play basketball?
Made me smile for the rest of the day.