Kid 1: “You think you can touch that?”
Kid 2: “Let me see.”
And with that, one of the oldest and most enjoyable games in the history of mankind continues.
I imagine little 5-year-old cave boys walking out of their caves, tens of thousands of years ago, spotting a tree branch seven-feet off the ground and grunting to each other a version of the above conversation, which ended in one boy trying to hit the branch, then the other boy, then both. Whoever gets highest wins and, for the moment, is the coolest.
This scene has played out for millennia. I have no definitive proof, but I am confident that Olympic events like the high jump and long jump both started out as two young Greek dudes betting each other who could jump higher over a fence or a goat… or farther over a puddle or who could leap over Socrates’ front walkway into his house.
A brief, unscientific survey of the modern version of “can you jump and touch that” begins with the top of the doorways leading into grade school classrooms and the archways across school hallways.
When I worked with Nate Robinson, a 3x NBA Slam Dunk Champion and one of the greatest jumpers of all time for our book, Heart Over Height, he told me that one of the first times he knew he was a gifted athlete was when he was in grade school. He said he was always one of the shortest kids in class, but was always the first one to touch the top of the doorway, or the top of a desk or locker and even the ceiling. He’d eventually jump over Dwight Howard for a dunk.
As for me? I’ve never had a 40″ vertical and I’ve never jumped over another human, let alone an NBA center, but I still love jumping…and almost anytime I’m walking somewhere with an overhang, be it a tree branch, a beam in a parking garage, or a sign in a stadium hanging down, my first thought, subconsciously at this point, is whether or not I can jump and touch it.
Last night I was with my niece at SMU in Dallas for a soccer game and at halftime, we went on the field at the football stadium. As we walked close to the end zone she asked if I could touch the goal post.
“Hell, yeah”, I thought, forgetting for a moment that I’m 38 and now need a full warm-up, stretching routine and foam roll to play hoops so that I don’t kill myself. But alas, my instincts took over and without thinking I took a few steps, crouched down, jumped up and… whiffed.
Goal posts are 10-feet high, so it’s the same height as a basketball hoop. I was furious. The day I can’t touch rim is the day I’m officially old.
So I did what I would have done when I was twelve.
I put my hat backwards. Got a little pissed off. Took a few more steps… Jogged, crouched, lept and… Boom! Slapped the goal post.
Then I did it again and had my niece take a picture because… I don’t know… I thought it was awesome, basically.
And you know what, it was awesome because jumping to touch stuff up in the air is, was, and will always be one of the joys of being alive. Why? Who knows? There’s just so much inherent joy in putting space between you and the ground with nothing but the power of your legs. And when you reach something that others (or even you) think is unattainable? Well, that always feels good.
Go jump up and touch something that you didn’t think you could reach. You’ll see.
Written By: Jon Finkel
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Jon Finkel is the author of Forces of Character with 3x Super Bowl Champion and Fighter Pilot, Chad Hennings, Heart Over Height with 3x NBA Slam Dunk Champion Nate Robinson, as well as Jocks In Chief, The Dadvantage – Stay in Shape on No Sleep with No Time and No Equipment, and all twelve volumes in the Greatest Stars of the NBA book series for the National Basketball Association, which won several ALA Young Reader Awards.
As a feature writer, he has written for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, GQ, Details, The New York Times, AskMen.com, ComedyCentral.com, Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame.com and many more. His work received a notable mention in the 2015 Best American Sports Writing anthology. He has appeared on CBS: This Morning promoting his books.