I went to a Jewish sleep away camp for two summers. That is to say, the camp was about as Jewish as anyone who would mark the box marked Jewish on the SATs, but wouldn’t know a lulav from a bamboo shoot. The real emphasis on was sports. From the moment breakfast was over it was sports, swimming and more sports. The annual highlight was the 4-day long camp wide Olympiad, but aside from that, the day to day activities consisted of what the counselors thought would be entertaining.
One day they decided to have a basketball skills competition. It was easy to arrange this since the basketball court was located right outside our bunk. My friend Adam won the foul shooting contest, hitting nine out of ten. When it came time for the three point contest I inexplicably caught fire and managed to hit seven out of ten to win.
A few days later, the counselors organized a half court 2 on 2 tournament and participation was mandatory. Part of me looks back and thinks the counselors were doing things like this for their own amusement. There were clearly four boys who were the best at basketball and it was only a matter of time until they played in the finals - the other several rounds were just to delay the inevitable.
I always viewed my popularity at camp as somewhere in the middle management. Comfortable with my group of friends, more popular than some, and disliked the kids who were higher up on the food chain. Those kids were jerks, but when you're 13, and the jerks are popular, you still find yourself envying them. People might think that I only think these kids are jerks because I wasn't in their group, but that's not true, and I'll give you two examples.
One night I woke up and my face was burning hot. Someone in the jerk group had a small bottle of tabasco sauce and had put a few drops on my face while I slept. I ran to the sink to find two other campers flushing their faces in the sink with the same symptoms as me. That was the night I had won the three point contest, so the good feeling I had was washed right down the sink.
The two oldest boys groups, the "super-seniors" shared one large cabin split into two sides by age. The older guys were on the left, younger guys on the right and shower stalls and bathrooms connected the two. A rare night occured when all of the older boys climbed to the roof of the bunk to sit and talk. It was not a typical bonding session, but we had a good time. When the counselors told us to come down and go to bed, one of the jerks walked across the shower roof and began to urinate off the side. The stream went right onto a window sill that aligned with the top bunk of one of the younger boys.
As luck would have it, these popular jerks were the best at basketball.
I approached my friend Adam, said that we had a decent shot, having won the individual skills competitions. It never occured to me that both of these could have been gigantic flukes. My only thought was that if we teamed up, we could surprise some people.
Our first round opponents were a kid in Teva sandals and another kid nicknamed "Beef" for eating an inhuman amount of meat during one lunch session. As I have mentioned before, participation was not an option, and these were two kids would have probably passed on the tournament if there was a choice. In the second round we escaped by a slightly better team to make it to the semi finals.
The last four teams featured the two popular jerk teams, our team and one other surprise team. We were up against one of the high seeds. They handled us with ease at first, jumping up to a big lead before we even got on the board. The games were to 21, going by ones and it was a quick 7-1 lead for them. When the score reached 10-2, one of their players sat down on the court and let the other do all the work. They swapped out on occasion, but it was still embarassing and arrogant on their part. With the two on one advantage, we chipped at the lead and brought it back to a 15-9. It must have been too close, because the other kid got back up, seemingly bored and they proceeded to finish us off to the tune of 21-10.
I remember the feeling of anger build up in me watching them sit on the court and laughing at us. I fought off every urge to throw the basketball as I hard as I could at him, partly because I had only been in one fight before and partly because I thought he might just catch the ball. I don't remember is who won the tournament or the names of any of the jerks. I've even looked at the bunk picture from those two summers and could barely identify any of them. I hope that they took a lot of pride being the best basketball players in a southern Connecticut semi Jewish summer camp. As far as that can get you in life, if you live your life as a jerk, it's only a matter of time before you piss in the wrong persons window sill.