I Practiced With The Houston Rockets Coaching Staff Insanely Hungover, It Was Both Brutal And Awesome

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A couple years ago, I was laying on the floor of a single bathroom in an office building in downtown St. Louis. It was maybe 8 in the morning. I had been out the previous night until about 3 AM. I had to be at work at 7 AM. My drinking that night could be described as “with reckless abandon.” I started at 4 PM with margaritas, and the last drink I remember is taking a shot of Rumple Minze around 1 AM. In between, I consumed a river of mistakes.

I didn’t remember getting home that night. I don’t remember how I got to work that morning. The combination of exhaustion, dehydration, and withdrawal made it feel like gravity was twice as strong for me as it was for the rest of Earth, which might explain why I couldn’t get up off my office’s bathroom floor. I was being pulled down. Probably to hell. Scratch that, this was hell. It was the worst hangover of my life. I wanted desperately to throw up, but I didn’t have the physical strength to do it. So I lay there, panting, wheezing, and groaning like a sick animal. Eventually I ended up falling asleep in that bathroom, on the cold tile floor, for two hours.

In that time I am totally certain that the obese woman who worked in my office and used this bathroom — that I was now sleeping on the floor of — due to personal space issues in the regular women’s room, tried to use that bathroom at some point after her first cup of coffee kicked in. She undoubtedly grabbed the door handle, felt that it was locked, heard me snoring and/or groaning from the other side of the door, left, came back a little later, still heard me snoring, and then had to decide between the indignity of squeezing herself into the women’s room stall or the shame of releasing whatever she needed to release in her pants.

Sometimes I feel like I’d be a less awful human being if my all my drinking did was increase my proclivity for arson or something.

Since then, an office at 7 AM has been the ultimate hangover nightmare in my mind. I was secure in that belief until I walked onto the Houston Rockets practice court in the Toyota Center a few weeks ago at 9 AM after a long, late night, the ending of which is, to this day, unknown by both myself and everyone I was out with. My inner camera was definitely not rolling by the end of the night. I can only imagine what I was like in the backseat the $27 Yellow Cab ride my bank statement claims took me home or…somewhere. I assume my mannerisms in the back of that cab were, basically, what you’d get if you slapped a human mouth on a jellyfish and threw it into a car: gelatinous, sagging, and exhaling incoherent noises. And though none of the hotel employees gave me horrified looks the next morning, there’s still a decent chance I made it up to my hotel room the same way Jordan Belfort got into his Lambo.

"Do you understand what you're about to do to me?"

“Do you understand what you’re about to do to me?”

Myself and a cadre of fellow “Bro Media” types (guys from BroBible, SLAM Magazine, Complex, Uproxx, etc.) were treated by Degree to a weekend in Houston for the Final Four. We were there to watch the semifinal games, check out Degree’s measuring of student section behavior throughout the games via a sensor bracelet worn on the wrist, and to “sweat with Degree” while training with the Houston Rockets staff.

The first two parts were cool, save for the fact that the NCAA doesn’t sell alcohol during its events because the NCAA’s sense of morality is as warped as the guy who spouts off about gay marriage being against God but then goes home and watches videos of a man dressed like a centaur blowing a horse. So, you know, Ted Cruz. (Don’t lie, if his face popped out the window of an ice cream truck you’d scream, “Run children!” and punch it.)

Contemplating life choices while dribbling.

Contemplating life choices while dribbling.

On a side note, the Villanova kids easily won “rowdiest fan section” that weekend. Not just by Degree’s measurements (and they did by a lot), but also by the eye (and ear) test. Granted, they obviously had the most to cheer about. If that were Missouri drilling a last second shot for the title the only thing louder than my wild-eyed, lady-pitched screams would be the sonic boom emanating from my sound barrier shattering ejaculation. But even compared to the UNC section when the Tarheels were beating Syracuse in the semis, Villanova was by far the wildest section. Clearly they had snuck in the most water bottles full of vodka.

It’s a real dick move to complain about something that is, objectively, really cool. Training with the Rockets staff on their practice floor in the Toyota Center was insanely cool, even despite the fact that given my natural athletic skill set few things make me feel less cool than playing basketball. I would’ve killed it if we were training with the Houston Dynamo, though, you guys. (I’ll go punch myself in the face for that sentence.)

"Please someone take this from me."

“Please someone take this from me.”

Despite how uniquely awesome the opportunity was, I thought about skipping it when I was ripped out of my coma and back into reality by my cellphone and hotel room phone ringing almost simultaneously around 8:30 A.M. The frantic calls were from the group’s PR chaperones, who were justifiably terrified that my body was ditched in a swamp while my credit cards were being used at a Houston strip club, which would have raised absolutely zero alarms for my bank’s fraud security team.

I sucked it up, though. I crawled out of bed, put on the brand new Under Armor gear Degree provided us (including some pretty sweet basketball shoes), splashed water on my face, hoped that I was still drunk enough that I wouldn’t feel much pain, and reminded myself that NBA players do this all the time.

When we walked onto the Rockets practice court I noticed a cooler full of Gatorade and and immediately chugged a bottle while everyone else took practice shots. The Rockets assistant coach who was running the practice noticed and asked me if I had had a rough night. You coach an NBA team in Houston chances are you’ve seen your fair share of on-court hangovers. I told him yes and we shot the shit for a minute about where I had gone out the night before, etc.

I hadn’t checked the NBA standings in a while and asked who the Rockets were lining up to face in the playoffs (I had assumed they were still in the 8 to 6 seed range). Apparently, though, the coach informed me that at the time they were in 9th place in the Western Conference. I felt like a dumbass for not knowing, but immediately redeemed myself when the coach told me that the Jazz were the team ahead of them in 8th. As a Mizzou alum I assured the coach that all he needed to do was send Jazz head coach (and former Missouri head coach) Quin Snyder a little blow and a few 20 year old girls and the Jazz would sink like a rock in the standings in no time.

I got a good laugh out of the coach from that one. It was all downhill from there.

The first thing we did was run. We ran suicides. I think I lost my vision for a minute. My will to live was floundering too.

Usually I’m in decent shape. I go running almost every day. I don’t get winded that easily. However, the previous couple weeks had taken me out of my normal exercise routine. I got back to Austin from our spring break cruise a broken man, had one day to recover (which I did not), and then was thrown directly into the last weekend of SXSW. I spent the entire next week hungover. (Don’t get old, kids.)

So after two weeks of physical inactivity combined with a week of actively and enthusiastically deteriorating my body’s strength, I wasn’t exactly in game shape. I was more in, “Please God don’t let me throw up on the Houston Rockets practice floor” shape. My “flu like symptoms” were strong that morning.

After a few ball handling and passing drills, during which the group had the coordination of a newborn fawn whose mother had been hit by a car while pregnant, we were given a break and I chugged another Gatorade like it was the antidote to a poison I had swallowed. (And, really, that’s sort of exactly what it was.) Then it was time to play some 3 on 3.

You can’t hide in a game of 3 on 3. You can’t sit in the corner and wait to shoot threes. You have to move around, play real-ish defense, help out. All the things I assume James Harden has never done on that court. So I did, albeit terribly. But I didn’t want to ruin the experience for anyone else. Of course, me yaking at the top of the key would’ve done that too, so I had to find the right balance between relatively acceptable effort and not moving around so much that my insides would try to launch themselves out of my face. I figured if Dwight Howard can do it with a stomach full of nothing but candy and champagne, I could do it too, dammit.

"Good effort out there... most of you."

“Good effort out there… most of you.”

We ended the morning with a game of knockout. I got knocked out pretty quickly and, soaked in 80 proof sweat, and I staggered over to a chair where I plopped down and remained nearly motionless until we were done. I was more hollow than the Clintons’ marriage.

It had been the most brutal morning I’ve had in years — certainly since that morning at work — and I’ve been massively hungover in LAX multiple times in that span. Would I do it again? If I’m being honest, yes. I wouldn’t want to do it that way again, but the series of events would undoubtedly play out exactly the same way. My self control and ball control skills are both low.

[Photos via Dave Rossman]

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