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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Lachman: The Fruit Loops are ready to bounce back

Illustration by Shveta Shah

Last year, my intramural basketball team’s name was the “Fruit Loops” (yes, we spelled our name differently than the cereal brand). We lost in the semifinals. 

As Winter Quarter and a new season approaches, the burning fireball of desire to win residing deep in my belly is almost ready to explode. 

Just kidding … sort of.

I’ve always been a competitive person, and my 10-year childhood basketball career is to blame. I played for many Amateur Athletic Union squads and school teams. Basketball was inextricably tied to my identity for much of my life — or so I thought. At the end of my sophomore year of high school, I decided to quit.

I wrote an opinion piece reflecting on the decision for my high school newspaper titled “It’s okay to quit.” And though I’ve sometimes worried I sounded a bit self-righteous at the time, I’m still very proud of the piece.

The one thing I wish, though, is that I had fully taken my own advice. At Friday night basketball games, I’d support my teammates but simultaneously ridicule myself for not being out on the court.

It’s interesting how a static piece of writing can feel so viscerally true in one moment but almost insincere in the next. And that’s how my opinion piece has often felt to me ever since —  dishonest. That is, until I played intramural basketball during my sophomore year at Northwestern.

My freshman year, I had trouble finding an intramural team to join for Winter Quarter because I didn’t feel comfortable putting myself out there. I didn’t have a friend group that I could automatically turn to, and I believed that was the only way to get involved.  

But in my sophomore year, I decided I’d play no matter what. I signed up as a “free agent” and was ready to play on a team of complete strangers. But in the end, a friend invited me to join his group, and I accepted. I was still nervous at first, and I felt as if I didn’t belong because I was not part of the “original squad.” All that changed, though, as soon as I got to our first practice.

We had a casual opening scrimmage in Blomquist Recreation Center before the league started, and despite all my missteps, gasps for air and aching hamstrings, I knew then that our team chemistry was special. I had met a few of my teammates before joining, but becoming better friends with them through basketball reminded me of the strong bonds the sport can foster.

My team struck just the right balance of taking the game seriously and having fun. We talked game plans, loosely scouted other teams and chanted “Fruit Loops” in huddles. We vented together about opponents who played dirty, hyped each other up for making a three-pointer and sat together in beautiful silence as we untied our shoes after exhausting games.

People often talk about playing intramural sports as if it’s a throw-away activity, or as if it doesn’t matter because it’s not career-oriented. Really, it’s a great way to learn how to live. It helped me learn how to incorporate self-care at a demanding school and balance leisure time with my academic responsibilities.

Even years after quitting, I’ve still been trying to better understand how that impactful period of my life fits in with who I am now. That processing is ongoing, but the discomfort I felt from having to think about it — from grappling with what I thought was a lost aspect of my individuality — is largely gone.

Playing intramural basketball with such a great team reignited my competitive spirit, but it most importantly reintroduced me to a healthy relationship with the sport. It helped me overcome some of my social anxiety and stop dwelling on the past, instead carrying the good parts with me.

That being said, I’ll surely be dwelling on our past when we reassemble some iteration of the Fruit Loops this coming winter. 

And for anyone looking to challenge us, let it be known: We will not lose in the semifinals again.

Ethan Lachman is a Medill junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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