Play-In (National Poetry Writing Month Poem #12)

By Daniel Paiz

April is that time of year where after working and toiling away, the NBA season approaches the playoffs. In recent years, the NBA has started something called the Play-In round, where the four bottom seeds (teams ranked 7th through 10th) battle to earn the last two spots in the postseason.

There might not be an initial connection between National Poetry Writing Month and basketball, but it’s there. Both require you to operate within limits. Both are fluid and driven by momentum. And both utilize warming up and fighting to get through the Play-In.


Ten thousand hours is what it supposedly takes.

Sounds kind of easy,

if it’s that measurable,

because it’s unlikely any of us habitual dribblers are,

monitoring every minute,

as we practice different dribbles,

footwork drills,

layup drills on one side of the hoop,

and then to the other.

Free throws where you have to hit five in a row.

No make that ten.

Scratch that, it’s twenty or sprint time.

That’s why some players despise the Play-In.

It’s not about how much energy and effort go into the season,

but rather all of those movements, shots,

beads of sweat and pangs of pain

boiling down to one or two games.


that 82 prior amalgamations of

82 distinct quartets

is reduced to what one does in the time it takes to view a film.

So much footage is consumed,

of people you don’t really know,

and yet your future depends on learning their mannerisms.

So as these athletic spies

decide on when to make a counter move,

or observe closely when to test fortune,

and gamble on theft instantly rewarding and celebrated,

but equally damaging should the steal not work,

the scramble mistimed,

or the mighty leap ill-advised.

Because these poker faces constantly are in masquerade,

figuring out how to bullishly take over,

or play the part of one scorned beyond measure.

Little did you know,

the antics of these athletes is theater from a different row.

Don’t tell me you’re getting tired, already.

This is the championship quarter.

The one where you dig deep and resolve to see your makeup.

To understand whether you wanna continue,

or you wanna go home.

Do you truly believe in everything you’ve done,

have you found the resiliency and fortitude

you’ve told yourself you’ve had since this time last year,

practiced from every single spot the necessary action must be taken,

the draining of thread slowed down to a crawl,

where the vibration of sound astounds or drowns,

as this is the one time netting is louder than a rattling metal sound.


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