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Boomers, Choose A New Sport

(image via

(image via

If you’ve ever seen an adult league basketball game, then this is familiar territory:

Older players show up at the local grade school at night with big bags. Is this for a trip to the gym or a month in Europe?

They start unpacking their gear and you can’t figure out what it all is.

When they take off their sweats it starts making sense. Knees carry huge pre-arthroscopic surgery scars.

Wobbly ankles get support from lace up braces. They strap industrial strength appliances to their knees.

It’s a wonder they can even walk with the extra weight, let alone play basketball.

Ask any of them why they risk further injury and you’ll hear the same words: “I’m never giving it up.”

Should they?

With their legs braced up with more hardware than President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to convince his audience he didn’t have polio, they play.

Bang knees in the paint with one of these guys and you come away the loser.

Why do they keep showing up with the brace bag, the bottle of Advil, and a nasty attitude on the court?

Because sport is still a part of them, an important part, and playing helps them stay in touch with who they used to be. Whether a grounded high flyer, or a step slower facilitator, they’ve still got game.

More importantly, they want you to know they’ve still got game.

When they play younger guys and can’t guard them, they openly say, “I foul. A lot.” What that means is they’ll clothes-line you with their arm around your neck if you cross them over.

The scoring machine on your team who used to get his legs under his long shots won’t stop trying. Air ball after air ball goes up and he says, “Shooters shoot through their slumps.”

Avoid asking how many decades they’ve been slumping if you don’t want to get tackled on the court.

Keep in mind that these men and women, these baby boomer sports nuts, are hardcore competitors. They won’t give their game up, and they won’t give you a break.

Instead of making them feel old and lame with your smooth moves, fake a limp. Fall down like you just sprained your ankle. Show you’re one of them as long as you’re playing with them.

Make sure you understand how important their game is, or pay the price. What is the price? Listening to an old man brag about his old man game.

A young player deked a brace guy during a game, who retaliated with an elbow to the head.

The first player said, “That’s not part of the game. Not now and not when you dreamed of playing like Bob Cousy.”

“Sure it is,” said the Elbow. “Just because soft guys like you can’t take it doesn’t mean it isn’t part of the game. Listen, kid, I played college ball. See these teeth? An elbow knocked them out. See these knees? Eight surgeries. You’re telling me how to play? I don’t think so.”

“College ball? You played in college? That’s nice, but this isn’t college. Swing that elbow again and you’ll be on the ground with your false teeth, okay? The coach isn’t pulling your scholarship if I score on you. He’s not benching you if you can’t keep up. Just play the game right. You don’t need to teach any lessons here with your Man’s Game. Why not be a good sport and feel lucky you can still play at all?”

“Now I’m getting advice from kids more than half my age?”

“You probably mean kids less than half your age. They taught math where you went to college? I went to Oregon. They teach math there.”

“Did they teach respect?”

“You played basketball. That’s your game. I wrestled. That was my game. I’ll be showing you what it’s all about the next time you cheap-shot someone. Respect that.”

“Is that a threat?”

“No. It’s a promise. Play right, or don’t play at all.”

(posted on





About David Gillaspie


  1. I don’t know, the whole “this isn’t your world anymore, it’s mine,” tone of this piece leaves me cold, and unless there’s some tongue-in-cheekiness going on that I don’t get (or it’s really just not funny), it’s rather patronizing and insulting.

    If you don’t like the way some people play, don’t play with them — it’s that simple. But you’ve no business telling them they can’t play. It’s not about “who they used to be” — it’s about who we all still are in the present.

    Guess I’ll go and put my wrist braces back on now that I’m done typing.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Hi David,

      First up, thanks for taking the time to comment. This post is inspired by gym rat basketball. I don’t play, but my boys in their twenties do.

      They play with high school kids, college guys, and older people. Since I’m 58 I’m one of them, but I don’t play.

      They come home after getting punched in the head, choked, and hacked by players who’ve lost a step but gained an entitled sense of revenge. In the sports world rules still mean something, even in pick-up games. My sons are rough and tumble enough to give and take fouls and still be fair.

      You’ve got insight by calling this post insulting and patronizing. Players on the court should be there to play, not prove Who The Man Now. Older players (my age) feel like they’ve got a free pass for decking younger guys. Not the case. Intentionally hurting someone then explaining how it’s Part Of The Old School Game is nonsense.

      My intent, the one you missed, is to either get the old guys my age to play right or run them off the court before one of the younger guys they club down puts them on the floor and they can’t get up.

      No one wants a dead tooth root canal after an elbow in the face, a sprained ankle from someone sticking their foot out because they couldn’t move anything else, or a tweaked back from getting shoved by someone who can’t jump. That’s all come home here.

      Old people playing Old Man Ball is one thing, but old people chopping younger players in Young Man Ball is another. I’m a coach. Coached for years. Coached my boys and their friends with the ideal of sportsmanship. An old man administering Court Justice on another player because they can’t guard them is just bad for sports.

      In the long run it’s best to know when to change your game before the game changes you. No one wants pit bull wrestling champions who play high level gym ball zeroing in after they’ve been hacked and whacked once too many times.

      Now David, if you take the court and announce that “I foul. I foul a lot” to intimidate opponents, then you don’t belong on the court. Why? Because you’ll eventually get hurt worse than you expected, report the incident, and have the offending player ejected.

      Anyone who plays the sneaky What’d I Do card after they chop a kid in the neck deserves a return. When the player who gives a cheap shot is over 40 years old, what happens? It gets rough on them.

      Thanks for coming in. The more Davids, the better.


      • Hi David — Thank you for your own thoughtful reply. I absolutely agree that if a game is to be played it should be played by the rules — no matter what age the player is. Age certainly doesn’t excuse one from rule-breaking, bad behavior, or anything else — and I apologize if that’s how you intended your post to be read and I missed it, and not just as “get off the court, old man.”

        I also agree that if you can’t compete, you’re playing in the wrong league — and rather than play dirty in some idiotic attempt at being competitive, you should rather just change to a level of game where you are still competitive.

        Thanks for the intelligent discussion, David. At least bad backs and getting up twice in the middle of the night to pee don’t disqualify us from that.

        Yet 😉

        • David Gillaspie says:

          Thanks, man. I get called ‘old man’ and laugh it off. Then I recheck the mirror and agree until I meet someone older who does more. Then I feel even older.

          On the upside, old fellas owe it to the youngers to temper our fight. We’re going down the same road, some faster than others, and telling kids to live well, then demonstrate what that means, makes a difference.

          I recently shared a kid event with someone I know, but not well. They responded by telling me I shirk my responsibility as a parent, that I’m sloughing it off on my wife, that I was a bad example.

          After he finished I said, “It sounds like you’ve been divorced a few times and now you’re making up lost ground.” He said his wife had been married before and had two kids.

          He was the knight in shining armor. I’m just the same old dad who’s been around forever. I kind of like that.

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