About Me

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thought i was a donut, ya tried to glaze me

9.10.2009

Classic

I only signed up for the St. Francis de Sales Summer Classic, my parish's basketball league, for the uniform. I considered owning a pair of the shorts and one of the t-shirts a right of passage for any Rockaway kid and, always wanting fit in, I signed up to play for a few summers.


In my short career as a summer baller, the teams I played on were mostly average. This wasn't bad, considering I was a below average player. Could I make a layup? Barely. Could I shoot? Sometimes, if I got into a groove. What I knew was based off of what I watched on TV and did in the Walsh's backyard court, and even those few skills could be erased if I got too nervous. The blacktop of the SFDS schoolyard might as well have been the Garden to me; once I got out there, my heart raced and I'd usually choke. But at least--at the very least-- I'd get to keep the t-shirt.

The summer I was 12 I received a call at home from my next Summer Classics coach. My mom answered, and she spoke for a few moments before I heard her say, "Sure, I'll go get her."

And with her hand cupped over the receiver, she whispered to me,

"it's your Summer Classic coach--she says she knows you!"

I picked up the phone and said, "Hello?" and on the other end of the line there was an excited, masculine-sounding voice.


"Katie!" she said, "It's Mary. Mary Jones*! I'm the coach at [all-girls Catholic High School in Brooklyn]. You know me--I know you. We're going to be playing basketball this summer. I'm very excited!"

"Oh," I said, slightly confused. "Ok. Cool."

"I'll see you on Tuesday," she said. "I want to go all the way this year!"

I hung up the phone. I had no idea who this lady was, but somehow, she knew me. Perhaps she had heard about my fairytale run to the 10th Round of the Diocesan Math Bee? Or maybe she'd been told of my perfect score on the 5th Grade English-Writing State Exam? Regardless of how she did know me, I started to get excited. Not only was I now going to be playing on an above average team--maybe even a championship one--I was actually recruited to play for it.


Now there is an unwritten rule in the league that bans the stacking of any teams. The players are supposed to be chosen randomly, by someone other than the coach. Yet every year, there are teams far superior to the others, with entire rosters that practically mirror AAU travel teams or, in the case of the older high school division, have all had features in the Daily News high school sports section. These teams always steamroll their way to the Championship game, almost always taking home something I desired even more than the regular uniform: The St. Francis de Sales Summer Classic Championship Long Sleeve T-Shirt. It came in three colors: purple, red, and green, and under the tiny floodlight in the Walsh's backyard, as I clumsily practiced my shot, I would often close my eyes and imagine wearing it. And now it was in my cross hairs. How, I had no idea, but it was there.


I showed up the following Tuesday and found my way to my team. I saw girls I knew from school--Jenny Willis with the killer 3-point shot, Megan O'Sullivan who was recruited by Christ the King--and asked where the coach was. They pointed to a skinny, athletic woman in men's basketball shorts and a tank top. I approached her.

"Hi," I said

She looked me up and down a few times and then ignored me. I tried again.

"Hi. I'm...on your team."

She stopped and looked.

"Who are you?"

"I'm Katie Honan."

She looked me up and down some more.

"You are?"

My face scrunched up and I stared at Coach Jones for a few minutes before defending myself.

"Uh, yes."

She looked at her roster, than at me, then stared at the roster a few moments before saying,

"You're not who I thought you were."


I don't think that will be the first time in my life where somebody mistakes me for somebody else. I'm sure I'll hear the phrase "you're not who I thought you were" again, if I ever embark on an adventure into internet dating, or perhaps in the middle of a fight with someone, shocked or disappointed by my actions. But then that would be sort of theoretically thinking I was somebody else, not literally. Nothing hurts like the first time you're found out; you'll never be good enough from who they thought you were going to be. My 12 year old heart dropped to my feet.


Once I got over the initial misunderstanding, a different sort of feeling set in. I wanted to know who she thought I was. The other Katie Honan. I only knew of one--apparently not who she may have wanted, but a decent, interesting person nonetheless. And I only even knew of four other Honans , all happening to be members of my immediate family. I thought foolishly that we might be the only Honans in all of the United States, judging by how infrequently the McGuinness's Irish Gift Shop sold our souvenir family crest. The lady behind the counter even told us it wasn't a common name, and I imagined the only other Honans somewhere in Ireland, distant cousins sharing my last name while they milked cows and lived in thatch-roof houses.

The idea that there were other Honans sharing air with me in the same regional area--close enough that they were on my town's radar, yet far enough that I had never heard of them--freaked me out. What did the other Katie Honan look like? Was she better at Uno than I was? What kind of daytime television did she watch? Why was she so great in basketball? Why did this coach want her so bad?


But nothing would be resolved as the season progressed. Coach Jones was stuck with me the rest of the season because of another rule that was put in place, originally to help these all-star teams stay that way. Once a team roster was created, it could not be changed. I couldn't be traded or kicked off just for a simple case of mistaken identity. The purpose of the league, after all, was to promote sportsmanship, athleticism, and dependency on the Catholic Church for all social activities. It wasn't very Christ-like to turn me back to the league commissioner all because of my lack of skill. And I never even had the chance to ask Coach Jones who she thought I was, since she stopped talking to me once she realized who I wasn't.


So the season went on, and I never played and never learned about the other me. So be it. Peninsula Hospital Center, our team, rolled through the regular season, crushing other teams by often double-digit margins, and we easily made it to the playoffs. I still showed up to every game on the off-chance I'd get some playing time, but I always just rocked the bench. Sometimes I would get so bored I'd create elaborate situations in my head where the other Katie Honan showed up to one of the games, demanding to know who I was and I what I was doing pretending to be her. She'd be like my evil twin--sleeker, thinner, taller, with a shot like John Starks and the blocking ability of Hakeem Olajuwon. Often in these fantasies the Evil Katie Honan and I would get into a verbal shouting match under the lights which would end with us both slapping each other across the face, I yelling, "Who are you?!" and Evil Katie Honan replying, indignant, "No, who are YOU?!"

The game would usually be over before our imaginary fight went any further. I'd pack up my stuff and I'd stop by the Snack Shop for a Marino's Ice before walking home.




I arrived for the championship game early, and took my place on the bench after warm-ups. We were playing Baskin Robbins, a team we'd easily beaten early on in the season. They were a scrappy bunch, though, and we trailed after the first half. They wanted those shirts, and they wanted it bad, and more importantly, they were a team who observed the rules and wanted to beat the team that got so far because they didn't. I resonated more with them than I did my own team, and I secretly rooted for them from the sidelines. I would have loved to have seen the look on Coach Jones' face after all that scheming.

But Peninsula was a team of all-stars. My teammates rallied and by the final few minutes we were leading BR by over 15 points. It was then that Coach Jones glanced in my direction and reluctantly pointed to the court.

"You're in," she said, although she could barely look at me when she said it.

I jumped off of the bench and got on the court and crouched down low like I saw them do on TV, my arms hanging down like a monkey. We turned the ball around quickly and I raced up to get under the hoop. Meghan O'Houlihan saw me--she held the ball up, about to pass it, rethought it, but then passed it to me when she had no other options. I felt the rubber ball in my hands and dribbled it--hearing the sound, feeling it come back into my hand--and stopped. I swirled, pivoted on one foot, extended my right hand and let it fly up. Like a gazelle. I heard that sound--swoosh--and made the layup. I guess I'd finally learned something from all those hours of watching.


I followed my team back to the other side (keep moving, keep moving, don't watch it, keep moving) and before I knew it, the game was over. I played. I scored. We won. I got my shirt, which I still wear because it says "champions" on the left arm. I never saw Coach Jones again.


And years later, I finally found out about the other me. Who I was supposed to be. Turns out there's another family of Honans who also have two daughters, although they don't have a Katie. Dumb Coach. They live in Brooklyn but had a cabana at the Surf Club and they excelled at swimming and basketball. They went on to attend [All-Girls Catholic High School in Brooklyn Full Of Snobs], and I recently tried friending them on Facebook but they denied me.

Every so often I'll meet someone who knows of these other Honans.

They ask me if I've ever met them. I always answer, "sort of."

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