50-Year-Old Men Should Not Jump: How I Left My Ego on the Basketball Court When Playing Ball With My Boys by Mark Stackpole
I turn 50 in a little over a month. I know that it is pretty common to hear things like “50 is the new 40” or “60 is the new 50.” But for some of us, it seems to be the reverse. Right now, “50 feels like the new 80.”
It was an incident over the weekend that has me feeling a little more creaky than usual, and it was my own darn fault. We spent this past Saturday assembling a new basketball hoop for our backyard. The old one had served us well over many years but was well past its prime. Once an errant shot put a giant hole in the backboard, it was time to upgrade. A process that should have taken a few hours ended up taking us well into the night, largely because I have neither the skills nor the patience to be involved in a process with so many nuts, bolts and teenagers trying to help. But we got it up (with one bolt borrowed from the old set) and the 3-point shooting began.
Proud dad moment, right? Well, yeah. One that lived until the following day.
We were playing our first 2-on-2 game, my wife and I versus my sons. Lucas, 15, recently finished a reasonably successful season on the freshman basketball team and has a pretty sweet little jumper, but I’m still several inches taller and have a lot more weight to swing around. So, he puts up a shot, and I jump to block it. Not only did he get the shot up over me, but my momentum carried me off of our little brick patio and onto the grass.
Where I immediately stepped into a gopher hole.
As I stumbled along, full speed and completely out of control – my view was akin to looking through the lens of a dropped camera – I realized that I was running out of room before I would hit the backyard fence.
Which I did, at full throttle. I was able to get one hand on the fence prior to impact, but it was as if the Titanic were trying to stiff-arm the iceberg. My elbow broke through the board, softening the blow for my head, which followed soon after. My hip slammed into a wooden border that ran along the ground. I also nearly took out two young, recently planted trees.
Do I blame my disastrous flight solely on my age? No. There have been too many carbs and too few gym trips over the years since I was in my “prime” (a term that I use very loosely). But there was a day when I would have blocked that shot, gained possession and dunked over my opponent. As I flailed along in my desperate battle with gravity, I realized with certainly that those days were past. No great mystery, of course – they’ve been gone for a while – but now I have an elbow swollen like a balloon and a hip that is a particularly unnatural shade of purple to prove it.
It’s my son’s turn now. He can jump, he can shoot; he is 15 years old and on the rise. I’ll have to adjust my defensive approach if I am to compete. The bruises on my body may fade, but I fear that those on my ego are here to stay. At least I can say that even though I didn’t block his shot, he didn’t make it, either. Is it too petty to take some satisfaction in that?
As David Mamet once said: “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.” We’re about to find out if that translates to the basketball court.
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