Old Man and the C(ourts)

Every once in a while, when I was a kid playing basketball at a playground or in a school gym, I’d bump into one of “those guys.”

You may remember the type. They were gray-haired or bald. Some wore sweatbands, but because they insisted that games be played in the half court, there wasn’t much sweating to be done. Their pants were too short or too tight, or too out of style, and they sometimes wore old dress shirts that were missing buttons or sleeves, shirts that showcased a variety of tears, holes, and stains.

These guys didn’t shoot much, beyond the occasional “ride the tricycle” set shot, an offensive gesture from the Bob Cousy era. They couldn’t run or play defense, but the one thing they all seemed to have in common was an interest in and an aptitude for passing the ball. Since none of us were all that keen on giving up the rock, we were happy to humor them for a game or two.

For the life of me, though, I couldn’t figure out why these old guys kept coming out to play. Didn’t they have enough good sense to get off the court to let the young guns run? Why did they continue to drag their sorry games out for public ridicule? Weren’t there prunes to be consumed or a Lawrence Welk show to be watched?


This morning, as I lay sprawled under the basketball hoop, grabbing my just sprained ankle, rolling from side to side, in a weak attempt to maintain manly readiness (hey, my sons were watching!), it suddenly dawned on me, that I had somehow turned into one of “those guys.”

I suddenly noticed that I was sporting black, last century sneakers and khaki pants. (Who is in his right mind wears Wal-Mart “bobos” and khakis to play basketball – and at a spiffy prep school no less?) But more than anything, it was the look on my son’s face that tipped me off. It was a facial expression that was right out of the 70’s. And it seemed strikingly and painfully familiar…


4 thoughts on “Old Man and the C(ourts)

  1. The distinction between the “young guns” taking shots and the old guys setting up shots is interesting – the latter requires more wisdom and, more humility. Despite the pain involved, being one of “those guys” seems more virtuous…

  2. You should have taken up golf! At least you can still beat them even though they drive the ball 50 to 75 yards further – sometimes much further into the rough. A good short game has always been the equalizer! And the chances of a sprained ankle are somewhat diminished!

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