by Rick Mansfield
“We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Thus, spoke Founding Father Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw would echo the same sentiment nearly a full century later. Roughly another century after that, I personally wrestle with the practical application of that belief.
I recently attempted to transition from theory to execution. At a vacation condo at which we not long ago stayed; I noticed an outside basketball court. Just a half-court, to be more precise. A half-court with a somewhat crooked backboard and a really crooked rim.
When I inquired about its use; I was informed it was available to be reserved in 90-minute blocks. Though I’d even thought to throw in a couple of fishing rods and a small tacklebox, two pairs of hiking boots, open-toed sandals for driving and extra sunglasses; I had NOT packed a basketball.
I did have tennis shoes for walking on pavement. Shorts for the beach. Plenty of T-shirts. Just no “round-ball!” Luckily, they were available. Could be reserved along with the court. So, I signed up for the last block of the following day. Six PM through seven-thirty.
After a full day of visiting historic sites near our Atlantic coast, we returned to our temporary abode. Ate a light supper, did a bit of stretching and headed to the court. My wonderful wife chose not to accompany me as either teammate or cheerleader.
Now, I know that somewhere in the distant past I have successfully placed the orange-colored globe through the metal hoop. It has been somewhere around twenty years since I have done so lately. I remember how it is supposed to happen. Mentally, at least, I could see it. Physically, that was different.
After the first thirty minutes, a third of the way into my scheduled block of fun and games, I was actually making about half of my jump-shots. That is, if raising to some degrees to the edge of your toes, can be considered “jumping.” I felt a certain level of accomplishment.
Then Joe dropped by. We had met Joe when checking in. He was also present when I reserved the court. I, not one to always think things through, invited him to “stop by and shoot a few” if he had time. Apparently, he had found the time.
Now Joe was less than a third my age. Probably three inches taller. Somewhat slimmer. Needless to say, our “one-on-one” did not go well. Not sure if he had had any part in the vandalism of the setup, Joe did take advantage of the lower side to dunk. After the somewhat embarrassing twenty-one to six loss; I suggested a game of “H-O-R-S-E.” A game where “NO DUNKING OF ANY KIND” would be allowed.
Ten minutes later, I was a “Horse.” Five minutes after that, a “Pig.” Fortunately for me, it was about then Joe’s cell phone rang. It seems the young man was needed back at the front desk. Either that, or he had tired of listening to my gasps and groans and had messaged himself.
I walked (read LIMPED) back to our apartment. Collapsed on the couch. Some time later half-crawled to a hot shower. Got out and dressed for bed. Remembered I had also neglected to pack the Ben-Gay. Same time I was neglecting to pack a basketball.
I am thinking of purchasing my own basketball. Maybe even a backboard and hoop. All so I don’t prematurely grow old. Certainly, don’t want that. Thanks for joining us!