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Pick-up basketball isn't the same when you get old

I consider 24 Hour Fitness to be a home away from home. Five days out of the week are spent in the gym, doing a variety of exercises in a quest to stay in shape and keep my body right. It’s been like this for years now, and knowing how important fitness is in my life, it never fails how the excitement creeps in when it’s time to go to the gym and workout.

Since 24 Hour Fitness has the option of working out at any club in the area, it also provides a backdrop to the game I’ve loved to play since I was a little kid. There used to be a time when walking past a basketball court wasn’t an option. Even if there was no initial intention of playing, all it took was to walk near a court, see a ball and some people playing, and my other plans were derailed for the time being. I would join in the game, and the rest was history. It couldn’t be any other way.

When old-school cats would play with me and my boys when we were younger, they would always say “Enjoy it now, youngblood, because when you get old, it aint the same anymore.” Of course, we would laugh, because these cats were in their mid-to-late 20s saying this stuff to us teenagers, so of course, we weren’t trying to hear it. Even in my early-20s when old-school cats would say it, I wasn’t trying to hear it.

Besides, why should I? The old-school players still got up and down the court, they would still chop people up, and if they felt the need to make it a point, they would dominate the games and whoever was guarding them. It never occurred how they took longer to get on the court, because they had to stretch for 15 minutes, or how they would be slower to get off, in the physical sense. It seemed like those days weren’t coming anytime soon. What it is to be young and foolish.

Those old-school players were right, and for anyone who gets older, the feeling is more than likely a similar one. See, when you get old and you realize the days of playing to make a team are over, the days of attempting to make a living out of it are over, and the days of even feeling like you have something to prove are over, seeing a game go on doesn’t even matter. You can see one in front of your eyes, and not feel compelled to stop and join in. Nope, you just go on to the elliptical, or over to the squat rack, or to another station in the gym and get your workout in.

For me, it’s been like this for years now, but once a ballplayer, always a ballplayer. Yesterday, after finishing a grueling workout, the scene was set again; cats shooting around, most of the faces were familiar, a couple of new ones, and everyone waiting to play. I decided to put the gym bag on the side and get on the court to run up and down with the guys.

One thing I overlooked is what happens in a pick-up game after there was an NBA game on the night before. After witnessing the funniest game in NBA playoff history last night, it seems like remnants of the game surfaced in the gym, because wild jumpers, over-dribbling, and craziness galore ensued.

Debates spilled over onto how a foul would be called in the League, and of course, there were arguments about the score, even when it was called out after every single bucket. A couple of cats even got to the point where they wanted to fight, which almost destroyed my theory about how basketball players do not want to fight, but in the end (well, after stopping the game for 20 minutes), nothing happened, and the game continued.

Basically, it was just another day in the life and times of pick-up ball. Even at my peak of playing, I didn’t like to argue about foul calls. I wasn't a fan of “Shooting for it" to see who should get the ball after a crazy call, and breaking up fights was something I wasn’t thrilled about doing at all. At the same time, the combination of being in shape + being ultra-competitive took over, so it wasn't a big deal. Those days have been long gone, and outside of someone wearing some new Jordans on the court or wearing a bunch of decorations to hoop (wristbands, knee pads, headbands, arm sleeves), I don’t get motivated to terrorize anyone on the court anymore.

If you’ve played ball, then you never imagine a day when walking by a court with people playing doesn’t inspire you to want to go play, but when you get old, it’s almost as if something else leaves you, and it’s not just athleticism; it’s the desire that some things aren’t that serious. While that is a known fact, getting older actually affords you the opportunity not only to live it, but to walk away. Besides, it’s one thing to be younger and play for hours and not hurt, but now? After playing four games last night, my body feels like it’s ready to explode.

Be easy.
-K. Masenda
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!


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