Thursday, September 16, 2010

Old Guy Basketball and the Art of Knee Maintenance

It's been a long time. Almost a year, I think. Sometime in late summer 2009, I laced up my sneakers, strapped on my knee brace and hit the court.

I was playing ball regularly back then, once a week, sweating profusely in the 110-degree nighttime heat and polishing my mid-range game--a key part of training for any 6'3" guy who doesn't have the handles to be a guard or the height to be a post player.

Also, I'm 34. Mid-range is a key part of old-guy basketball. As is, I learned on Tuesday, major knee pain.

But first, the good. There were three of us. We arrived on the court at the health and fitness club to find a bunch of teenagers already playing. As they watched us mope onto the court, they started nudging each other.

"Hey, man--wanna play?" they asked. You could hear the predation dripping from their tone of voice. These guys are ancient, it said. Let's humiliate them.

But something strange happened.

Me in Game One.

We smoked them. Annihilated them. Game was to 11 and they scored two. I had five points, kept my guy from scoring, got some rebounds, felt pretty good. We passed a lot and played good D. One of the teens twisted his ankle and sat down.

Oh, and did I mention there were six of them? They subbed in and out several times during the game.

Anyway, they took off after that. And that's when things headed south.

Games Two through Four.

I won't go into the gory details, but I quickly lost my ability to jump... run at more than a jogging pace... hit easy shots... even make layups. And then, to literally add injury to insult, when I woke up the next morning I couldn't (at first) stand up out of bed. On the positive side, the knee I had 'scoped years ago has recovered much faster than the other one--thanks, Dr. Bowen!

So what is the lesson here? There are several.

1) The mid-range game will always pay off.

2) Passing will get better shots.

3) Stretch before playing if you are in your fourth decade of life and have knee problems.

4) There is still no excuse for missing a lay-up.

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