There’s an old VHS-C tape sitting in an old box in an old storage unit somewhere in Tulare, Cali. — a city that sits right in-between Bakersfield and Fresno. The city’s claim to fame is that it hosts the world’s agricultural show every year and once landed on Forbes’ list of worst cities to raise a family. Suffice to say; there’s not much to do in Tulare, which is why, on that VHS-C tape, sitting in a box in a storage unit in Tulare, there is a grainy recording of Davion Bruce, Dhevin Williams, Fernando Gonzales and myself playing basketball on eight-foot rims at Frank Kahn Elementary school.
We all lived within three blocks of each other, and when the summer days didn’t peak over 110 degrees, we’d make the trek to Kahn, set up our Sony camcorder on a turned-over trash can and play the kind of basketball we learned from NBA Jam. We shot a lot of threes and tried to dunk on each other whenever possible. We’d go home, dirty as hell, and watch those tapes.
If you happen to find yourself opening a dusty box in some dusty storage space in the dusty city of Tulare, pop in that VHS-C tape and rewind it all the way to the beginning. There were always intros before the games started, and no matter how hot it was, the intros included us in warm-ups so that we could rip off our adidas tear-away pants as someone from the other team made a terrible joke as he introduced you.
“Standing at 5-foot-9 and 27 pounds,” Davion would begin as I started to get off the bench. “The captain of the chess team — Phillip Barnett.”
As everyone laughed, I’d rip off my sweats and wave to the crowd that only existed in our minds. Ripping those pants off fit the general tone of our group — it was fun and whimsical and almost cool, but close enough to fit into the sub-culture it represented. We weren’t necessarily outcasts, but there were elements to the way we approached high school that were outcast-y.
We were ostensibly Tulare’s tear away pants, and every once in awhile our coaches and teachers and parents wanted to tear us out of their lives, but as frustrating as it is, they kept buttoning us back up.
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