Every year during the holiday season, there is a large group of individuals who are often overlooked. I am not speaking about those less fortunate than us, you've heard enough about them. I'm speaking about the students who graduate in December. Whether you are really lazy and finishing up a four-and-a-half-year plan (kudos), or you are really smart and finishing up in three and a half years (big mistake), the one thing you will have in common is an unimpressive graduation speaker. As an unimpressive person myself, I am perfectly qualified to dispense advice at this time. Unlike the spring graduates who will get to hear speakers give intelligent speeches , hilarious speeches, inspiring speeches or just plain great speeches, you will be stuck with me. Sorry.
There are many subjects I could lecture you about, but the truth is that no one wants to hear from a 25-year-old white male who has faced absolutely no hardships and has had no obstacles to overcome thus far in life. I could give you solid advice on things to be aware of as many of you transition into your new corporate careers, such as how important it is to know what ALT + TAB does, or what NSFW stands for. I could tell you about how if your company matches anything on your 401(k) deposits you should maximize your contribution, because not doing so is basically rejecting free money (that's damn good advice, by the way). I could tell you many things but I am here today to give you just one piece of advice that is simple but will vastly improve your adult years: play basketball.
If you don't play, start. If you do play but are terrible, practice. And if you do already play well, go back to my advice about maxing out your 401(k) so you can say you got something out of this. Now this is not a feel-good Rick Reilly article where I will tell you all about the virtues of teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership. It's way too late for you to learn these skills if you haven't already, so at this point I am just trying to help you save your own fat life. The simple fact is that as you get older, you will have to focus more on your health. You will have to join a gym and you will have to eventually get physicals and monitor your cholesterol. Most people run on treadmills and ride stationary bikes to accomplish their goal of being moderately healthy. You know what is way more fun than either of those things? Basketball. And napping on a couch. But the latter activity won't add any years to your life.
In any city in America, there is a game you can join any night of the week. You can play indoors or outdoors, and you need basically no equipment. Only have four guys? You can still play. Are you really athletic? Dunk on people. Are you a useless athlete? Maybe you can still become a good outside shooter. Are you large and aggressive? Learn how to set devastating picks. Are you weak and dainty? Basketball encourages great footwork. No matter who you are there is a skill in basketball that you can master.
Know what else is great? David Stern may be a power-mad commissioner who fines people retroactively for breaking rules that he just made up on the spot, but he certainly did a great job with making basketball global. You can find pickup games all over the world now from China to Brazil and almost everywhere in between. If you end up traveling for work or for pleasure, basically anywhere in the non-third world, you will be able to play basketball.
I can hear you mumbling about how you have played football or lacrosse for years now and there is no reason to pick up another sport. You may be right at the moment, but you don't see too many middle-aged guys playing lacrosse with the young kids. Every rec center in America has a guy in shorts that are too short and goggles that should not be worn by anyone ever. When you were younger you made fun of that guy, but when you get older you want to be that guy. That guy has put two kids through college and one through rehab (I make a lot of assumptions when I meet people), but he is still out there playing with the younger guys and his crisp bounce passes and his savvy teardrop floaters have made him a valuable player even at his advanced age. That's the beauty of basketball; although your athleticism will diminish you can still improve your skills. The constraints of the court itself are much more favorable to a slow person than a football field or soccer pitch. Watch Andre Miller or Jason Kidd play and it stands out just how slow they move in comparison to everyone else on the court, but yet their high basketball IQ plus their "old man game" makes them dangerous and valuable players.
The sad truth is that soon you will have jobs and your time will become a precious commodity. Organizing a hockey game takes a lot of time and effort. If you can find ice time it will be at 11:30 p.m. and you now have work tomorrow at 8 a.m. instead of Introduction to the Basic Mating Rituals of the Navajo Indians which goes from 1 to 1:20 p.m. and is your only class of the day. And good luck finding two poor saps to volunteer to play goalie. To top it off, in corporate America it is considered poor form to show up to work with a black eye or missing teeth unless you live in the deep South.
Football and soccer are both great sports. Both are fast-paced and exciting, and you get a great workout when you play but here is the problem, someone who is faster than you is instantly better than you when you get old. No amount of veteran savvy makes up for a 100-yard field when the person with the ball goes into a dead sprint. If you do get lucky enough to get a football game together, it's a guarantee that at least four people will get injured within the first 10 minutes. Once again, this is not a problem in high school or college, but this will become a problem as you age. Plus, haven't you watched the news lately? If you play football you will get a concussion and you will die. I just keep on saving your life, dear reader. As for soccer? This is America. You'll never get the girl if you play soccer.
I highly encourage you to join softball teams when you join the real world. It's a great way to meet people and it's a fun game to play, but if you think you will burn more calories playing softball then you will consume at the bar immediately following the game, then you clearly don't know how to play softball.
In conclusion, the best advice I can give someone who is looking to improve their health is that they need to make exercise fun. If you want to live longer and be healthier, the smartest thing you can do is to start playing basketball when you are young. Becoming the president got in the way of Obama's daily game and look what the lack of basketball has done to him in just four years! Michelle must be pissed.
So if you are a masochist weirdo who truly enjoys ultra-marathons or triathlons than I applaud you, but you are not normal. For the rest of us, strap up your Nike's and go enjoy Canada's greatest gift to America that's not named Bieber. Oh, and congratulations forgotten class of 2012.