I was just a beer away from the NBA


When I was nine years old, my career goal was to play center field for the New York Yankees after Mickey Mantle retired. Then I got bifocals and couldn’t figure out which ball coming toward me to swing at.

No problem. Moving up to fifth grade the next year made me eligible to be on my school’s basketball team. This was big because there were still memories in Fort Wayne of the Pistons before they moved to Detroit, Indiana University and Notre Dame played their annual game in Fort Wayne, and there was Hoosier Hysteria with real sectional basketball tournaments.

As I progressed to eighth grade with hopes of being in the starting lineup, I noticed that most of the other boys had grown to almost six feet tall while I was stuck at just barely clearing five feet n— shorter than everyone, including the girls.

Now I learn I abandoned my budding basketball career much too soon. The Wall Street Journal recently had a feature article about Andre Drummond, center for the erstwhile Fort Wayne Pistons, who significantly improved his game by adding one thing to his diet. Are you ready for this? Beer.

Mr. Drummond experimented with all the fad diets that athletes, and we mortals, fall for. This is especially true for very tall centers like Drummond who are now being pushed by their teams to lose weight in order to improve their jumping ability. He tried skipping breakfast but found that a bad idea for an athlete who worked out every morning. Something had to change.

His solution was to drink a beer every day at lunch. What could be better than that?

The article didn’t say who suggested Drummond add beer to his diet but it seems to have worked. He returned to fall camp slimmer and faster and has been posting scoring and rebounding numbers not seen since the 1970s.

I can see only one flaw in his dietary plan; he limits his consumption to just one. This seems to me to be an excessively doctrinaire approach to this. If a single beer produced such an improvement, wouldn’t a few more each day make him the best center ever?

Now, I am German Lutheran so beer is figuratively and literally in my blood. What I didn’t know is that I have been in an NBA training regimen for quite some time. But apparently neither did the Pistons as they never invited me to camp during these years. Their loss.

Still, a few barriers stand in the way of my getting an NBA contract.

First, I’m 68 years old. I think the NBA has a rule against active players being on Medicare rather than the league health insurance. Second, while I am no longer only 5’0” in height, my current 6”1” is not quite the ideal size for an NBA center.

Most important, adding a beer to my lunch cuisine hasn’t increased my vertical to any appreciable extent. Perhaps I’m drinking the wrong brand? I am German so I won’t give up on this. After all, I have science on my side, don’t I?

Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review, is formerly an associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

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