As a basketball purist, I can confidently say that the Pleuriss Valley Winter League for Middle School Asthmatic Boys is the purest, most exciting form of basketball currently being played in this country.

The Lack of Selfishness

We've all heard the complaints from the NCAAers: the NBA is nothing but egos. Sure, but college players have ulterior motives too: impressing scouts, getting ass, etc. But the players in the Pleuriss Valley Winter League for Middle School Asthmatic Boys play solely for the love of the game. There are no egos. They don't even have numbers on their uniforms. They just have plain, ill-fitting husky tees donated by the Knights of Columbus.

Some of them are always crying. And all of them are sometimes wheezing. It's an incredible display of sheer force of will.

The Fans

Elite players feed off of their fans. But it's become a distraction—and it affects the purity of the game. How can a player do what's right if he's focused on pleasing crowds? But in the Pleuriss Valley Winter League, there are no fans. Parents never show up to watch—or sometimes to even pick up their kids. No one cares.

The Players

The players are all at that really awkward and uncomfortable phase at the beginning of puberty where they have tiny faces and giant teeth, pre-deodorant pits, and countable body hairs. One boy's orthodontic elastics keep snapping—resulting in high-pitched yelps. They're tough to look at, honestly. But their game is simple and direct.

Just before tip-off, they clink their asthma inhalers together—and say, “bologna sandwiches for the winners!”

The Offense

The quickness of the NBA is a result of the one-pass offense. It's just a quick pass and shoot; there aren't plays. And college basketball isn't much better. But in the PVWL, there's nothing but passes. Teams will often pass several hundred times during a single possession. It's almost too many. They're all terrified to shoot. Also, they're catching their breath.

Every Game Means Something

Starters sometimes take a night or two off in the NBA. They need to “rest.” And in college, by the time March Madness rolls around, everyone knows who's getting drafted. But the middle school asthmatic boys in the PVWL live and die by each game. Sometimes literally because of the asthma.

The Winners

In the upper levels, the rewards are obvious. But the winners of each game in the PVWL only receive small bologna sandwiches, and what they do with their bologna sandwiches is entirely up to them. And what these winners always do is offer them as a sign of sportsmanship and respect to their losing opponents. The teams form two long, parallel lines facing facing other.

“Please, please, please,” they say, “I insist. Please take the bologna sandwich.”

And the losers say, “No, no, no. It is I who must do the insisting.”

And it goes back and forth until the bologna sandwiches are accidentally dropped on the school gymnasium floor. And the next morning they're finally picked up and eaten—when the gym teacher is sure no one is watching.

If you've grown as tired of “high-skill basketball” as I have, and want to find a place to watch “pure basketball,” come down to western Connecticut and watch what these middle school asthmatic boys are capable of.

I promise it'll be just us.


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