Retiring from basketball was not voluntary. I had been playing “pick-up” ball for about 15 years, and it was the highlight of my week. Every day was geared to those three hours a bunch of guys would bang around every Saturday. With the children all off, and grandchildren sprouting up, my focus was singular.
At one point, we had 15 guys show up to play. We had to break into three rotating teams. Except for me, the players were all in their twenties and late teens. No quarter was asked, and none was given. It was full-contact basketball!! Talk about fun!
I was the first guy in the gym every Saturday, and I would clean up, set up the chairs, dig out three basketballs and some paper towels to wipe off the sweat.
Unfortunately, I let my role as the roadie go to to my head. I would bark out orders to keep the action rolling. Often, I would make mistakes.
Then, there were the guys who didn’t like playing with an old geezer. “You’re going to let an 80-year-old man beat you!” one guy yelled at his buddy. That guy and his two friends stopped coming.
I was “only” 69 at the time, but the erosion had started. Two more star players stopped coming. One Saturday in early October of last year, no one showed.
The next week, three very young teenagers I had never seen before laughed me out of the gym. I was about to turn 70, so I took that as my cue – I never went back.
UNTIL – June 11, 2016! The original gang of about six invited me back! This last Saturday, we played again. Two and one-half exhausting hours of fierce basketball.
I may be bruised and very sore, but I’m not Dead On Arrival after all!!!!