There’s nothing quite like a pickup game. Let me rephrase that. There’s nothing quite like an old-man pickup game. Usually, when I go to a nearby court looking for a game, there are a few teenagers, a few guys in their twenties and thirties, and a token forty year old. But they are all relatively good ballplayers. A few of them played high school ball and maybe even one of them played in college. Those are good games. Evenly matched, competitive and fun.
But every Thursday night at 8 o’clock for the past few years, I have been going to a local church to play a game of pickup basketball with a few fellas. Right now you’re saying: “Hey that sounds like fun Sean”. LET ME FINISH THE STORY! OKAY! Anyway, this little pickup game I play in has more than one catch. There are a few actually. Catch one: The floor of the “court” is carpeted. That’s right, carpet. Granted, it’s thin carpet. The kind you would find on the floor of your basement. But it’s not a basement. It’s a court. What were the people at this church thinking? When I see a carpet on the floor, I don’t think “Lets put up some baskets for a game of hoops”. It makes everything you do when you play THAT much harder. Defending, jumping, even passing. Its so damn frustrating. At least its not shag carpeting.
The second catch is the old guys. Every week I am clearly the youngest guy there. There are a few twenty year olds. But after that, the average age skyrockets. Every guy is 40+. A couple in their fifties. And two guys in their SIXTIES! One of them I feel is going to drop dead on the court one of these days. He wobbles up and down, never straying too far from the left or the right. If he pivots, he might break something. And he does have his one set shot that he’s been working on since nineteen-dickety-two. When you guard him, you play off because you feel bad. At least I do. But when he gets that shot off, everyone playing knows it’s going in. He literally goes unconscious when he releases the ball. Because everything is right. His feet haven’t moved the entire possession so he’s perfectly balanced. But that’s not the worst thing about him. To compensate for his loose skin, old balls, and general oldness, the guy fouls constantly. On every possession, at least once. When he guards me, it’s awful. I move to the left, foul. I move to the right, foul. And I haven’t touched the ball yet. It’s basically as if the guy has you in a bear hug the entire game. But what the hell am I going to do? Call a foul? Can’t do that. The man is a hundred. I don’t want to be a bitch. Can’t beat Father Time off the dribble, so I got to call foul. Not going to happen.
What annoys me most about playing with these guys, is that they aren’t awful at basketball. You’d think, guys in their fifties and sixties playing once a week on a carpeted court in a church, not exactly a bunch of Pistol Pete’s. On the contrary. They shoot REALLY well. And since they pick about a million times a possession, they get open easily. If there was a shot clock in this church, they’d have a shot clock violation every time down the court. Somehow, the games are competitive.
Maybe I’m just blind to the fact that I’ve gotten really bad at basketball since the last time I picked up the ol’ leather pumpkin. But God willing, it’ll be me in thirty years waddling up and down the court, setting a pick for the picker who’s setting a pick, narrowing down my skills to one move, and getting frustrated with whippersnappers. Should be fun.