Saturday, January 7, 2012

Playing Basketball With Teenagers...And Feeling Like An Old Man: A Nevin Barich Blog Experience

I am not a good basketball player. In fact, I absolutely suck. I can't jump, I can't run, I can't shoot, I can't rebound, I can't dribble and move forward at the same time (never did get that down) and I'm not even a very good passer. Hoops just ain't my game.

Nonetheless, I'll hit the courts from time to time and feature my lack of skills. So when my neighbor John texted me last night and told me that him, his son, his nephew and another teenage boy were playing basketball across the street, I didn't hesitate.

"Honey," I said to my wife Ramona, "I'm gonna go outside and play."

I haven't said that since I was 10 years old. :-)

Once outside, a friendly game of Horse quickly turned into a Streetball game of 2-on-3, featuring the old guys (me and John) versus three teenage boys.

And although we held our own (we played two games to 11 and managed to win the first one despite the numbers disadvantage), I realized yesterday that the other team had a fourth player that I didn't expect:

Father Time.

Simply put, I felt like an old man out there. For the first time in my life, I found myself unable to hang with the younger boys athletically. I'm 32 years old, and last night was the first time that I really felt it.

Now, in my defense: I was not in game shape. I work out all the time, but it takes even professional basketball players time to get their wind. If I played more regularly, I surely would feel better out there than I did yesterday. So that was part of it.

But it was more than that. Usually when I play basketball, my body catches its wind after the first game. Not yesterday. Usually when I play basketball, I can will my legs to continue when they're burning. Not yesterday. Usually when I play basketball, I can guard even the fastest teenager (the unskilled-to-semi-skilled ones, anyway) with my lockdown defense when I feel the need to slow the game up. Not yesterday. John's damn nephew flew by me every time, and there was nothing I could do about it.

I even found myself wondering:

Was I ever that young?

And so for the first time in my life, I -- along with my teammate -- resorted to a long-standing tradition of what men do in these situations when we reach a certain age:

We cheated. :-)

It wasn't blatant cheating. Just a lot of little things. The pulling of the shirt when one of the kids when it for a layup. The "incidental" elbow on his back when going for a rebound. If we were down 8-5, the score somehow became 7-5. If the ball ever went out of bounds, the old guys never touched it. One time, one of the kids accidentally gave me the ball after I checked it to him, and I promptly turned around and shot it in. Any semblance of complaint from the young kids was instantly met with a look of incredulous disgust by one of the old guys, as if to say:

A real man doesn't bitch and moan. Only a boy would call that a foul.

That look works on teenagers every time. :-)

We trash-talked. That was a skill we still had. Every time one of the kids did a fancy dribble, we called him a showoff. We rolled our eyes at every one of their no-look passes. The kids heard about every shot they missed. Whenever one of them complained to the other, we called them a bad teammate. The young kids, according to the old guys, had no heart, no continuity, no concept of team. They were too young to know what it took to win, we said. We did and said anything and everything, because by the middle of game two, we had nothing else to fall back on.

Every time the old guys made a shot without the fancy moves -- which was every time -- we praised our lack of wasted motion, saying that only kids do all that useless running around. But the truth was: We didn't have the energy for wasted motion. All we had was gamesmanship.

When I came back into the house, my wife took one look at me and knew the story. For the first time in my life, I was an old man. She even said to me, "Would you rather not go out tonight? You can stay home and rest."

Stay home and rest. My God, where did the years go?

Luckily, within 20 minutes -- and after a hot shower -- this old man felt good enough to take his wife to dinner and a movie. And during The Adventures of Tin Tin, I took some time to reflect on what happened during the course of that evening. Every athlete has that first-ever moment when he's an old man out there. Some manage to make adjustments and last a few more years. Others refuse to change their ways and fall to a combination of bitterness and forgotten memories. I hope I'm the former, not the latter.

Next game, I think these young guys may trip over my feet.

Accidentally, of course.


And now for this week's:


They launched a Project Runway All-Stars?


I mean...



Next week begins my two-part blog series about my AWESOME Christmas gift from Ramona: First-class travel to Chicago and TICKETS TO SEE THE GREEN BAY PACKERS AT LAMBEAU FIELD!!!!

So much blog-worthy material.


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