I can’t see them yet, but red slashes are forming on the skin around the top of my shoulder. It’s 85 degrees outside, and I’m standing in a Santa Monica park alone. I’m wearing a white linen shirt with a black tie, black pants, gray blazer and black leather shoes. I’m dressed for either prom or a funeral. A thin layer of sweat builds underneath my clothes. I’m dribbling a basketball behind the free-throw line at one of the park’s courts, preparing to take my first shot of the day.
It started, of course, as a joke. Last week, in one of the many things newly appointed (and now erstwhile) White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci (better known as “The Mooch”) offered up for ridicule, he claimed the following about President Trump (emphasis mine):
“He’s the most competitive person I’ve ever met, okay? I’ve seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I’ve seen him at Madison Square Garden with a top coat on, he’s standing in the key and he’s hitting foul shots and swishing them.”
Despite the shit Mooch took for the comment, it made some sense to me. In both middle school and high school, I was required to wear a Dead Poets Society-type uniform (powder blue shirt, striped red and blue tie, navy jacket and khaki pants) once a week. In other words, like the president, I’ve definitely taken (and made) my fair share of foul shots while wearing a suit, if not a top coat.
That said, I don’t remember it being this painful. As I raise my hands above my head, square my shoulders and release the ball from the free-throw line, my first thought is of Paul Bettany’s character in The Da Vinci Code and the moment he slashes at his thigh with a spiked chain tied to his leg.
When I actually release the ball, I’m surprised by how aggressively the stitches in my jacket attack my shoulders and biceps. I feel every stitch in the sleeves of my shirt clawing against my skin, too. As I watch the ball fly through the air, I consider whether I’ll be able to get blood out of my shirt since my upper biceps feel as though they’re bleeding.
I make free throw number two as well. By now, however, the skin on my upper bicep is raw. In fairness, a blazer isn’t meant to provide a wide range of motion. If I extend my arms one more inch, I’m likely going to rip open my jacket.
The next shot I take is a three-pointer, which loudly clangs back to me.
Nothing but backboard.
I dribble around the court to give my arms a break. Strangely, the leather-soled shoes aren’t so bad. My feet feel fine.
After I whiff on another three-pointer, I dribble back toward the basket for a midrange shot just outside the key (again, a shot Mooch claimed Trump sank easily in a similar get-up). But when I raise my arms to shoot, the stitching between the sleeve of my blazer and the rest of my jacket tightens its choke on my bicep like a tourniquet. My veins are pulsing — and not in a cool body-builder kind of way. More like in a 27 Hours kind of way.
I take off my jacket, loosen my tie and roll up my sleeves, Obama-style. An ode of sorts to the original Jumpman president for my final shot.
I step up to the free-throw line, dribble a few times, spin the ball in my hands and shoot.
Mostly net, some rim. But all the way in.
And with that, I come away with a couple of simple truths. First, the Mooch is full of shit for a million different reasons, but this isn’t one of them. It’s totally plausible that Trump hit a free throw — or a shot from inside the key; Mooch is wrong on this count since they’re two totally separate things — in a top coat and suit. In fact, he could probably do it again if he was asked to prove it. So let’s be careful there. Second, I don’t know why the fuck he wouldn’t have at least taken off the top coat.