This week Adelaide has been hosting the Masters Games and as such, has rolled out the red carpet (and the radox) for the country, local and interstate over 35 wrinklies wanting to participate.
My Dad cruised into town fully-trained, kitted up and ready for playing in the Masters’ over 60s basketball competition. He’d placed an ad in the paper, asking if there were ‘any blokes over 60 wanting to play basketball and have fun.’ Somehow a rather motley crew of hopefuls answered his call, and they’d communicated via phone calls and emails right up until their very first game.
Sapphire and I went along to cheer Grandpa/Dad on and his entire team called the ‘Southerners’. His team mates shook hands, introduced each other, threw the ball around a few times and then prepared to play the ‘Myths and Legends’ team.
The Southerners consisted of:
- My Dad – John – a 64 year old retired teacher with slightly more belly lapping over the top of his shorts than in his hey day, and who had decided to tuck in his singlet into the waistband, giving him an pensioner Rain Man look;
- Little John – a 64 year old electrician who had also entered in the kayaking competition. He could rather optimistically be described as being five feet tall, and his silver hair gave him the appearance of a determinedly active little garden gnome;
- Glenn – a retired teacher who last played competitively eight years ago;
- Brian – owner of the team’s largest stomach, who still worked as an accountant and would rush to the games in between his work appointments. After ten matches over a week, he was yet to be sighted cracking a smile;
- Lyn – a country doctor who was carrying an old Achilles injury and brought along his oxygen kit in case he or any of his teammates needed it during the half time break; and
- Ted who had already pulled a calf muscle in the long jump competition a day earlier. It had twanged off several metres before he even made the board, so the poor chap didn’t even have the jump measured.
Having only six players was a concern for Dad, and the Myths and Legends club (who fielded several teams from over 50s and beyond), generously loaned him a couple of fellas to join the ‘Southerners’. They were:
- Peter 1 – a Cliff Young look-alike who wore his shorts inside out so the ‘care instruction’ tag was right over his butt hole and the size tag dangled out of his waist. He was apparently 65 but looked more like 85 – especially when he took his teeth out before the game; and
- Peter 2 who looked like a Sure Slim version of Elvis Presley. He was not injured either before the competition or after it; but apparently the rest of the team hoped that his mouth would somehow stop working. He liked to share the wisdom of his playing experiences with the team and tell them how to play yet was blissfully unaware of the eye rolling that occurred amongst them. That's right, 60-something men can be bitchy too.
Sadly for the Southerners, they were beaten 40 to 20 by the Myths and Legends team who were, on average, a foot taller than each of Dad's players. After the game the team weren’t so worried about their loss as they were about their health – Dad had pulled both calf muscles in the first five minutes of the game; Little John had twanged his groin and a hammy was playing up; Glenn’s Achilles decided to fully give up the ghost; Brian’s hamstring baulked at the challenge of hoisting his not inconsiderable girth around the court; Ted had his long jump Achilles in a pressure bandage from his ankle to his knee; and Lyn also limped off with a pulled calf muscle.
The organisers of the Masters Games were clever enough to anticipate that their participating wrinklies are going to be much more likely to injure or strain themselves than younger, fitter and more regular players. To me it seemed that just the ‘Southerners’ on their own ran the canteen dry of ice for the Sports Medicos ice packs and many rolls of tape were used to tighten up muscles that were misbehaving themselves.
Dad was sent off during one match under the blood rule, but got off a lot more lightly that a bloke on other side. Firstly he was sent off with a nose bleed until he returned back on court a few minutes later with his nose stuffed full of tissues. Then the poor old bastard got a full whack in the goolies, sending him to the floor in the classic foetal position of agony. He grunted to his mate, “Hell that just about drove me testicles up into my abdomen”, only to have his team mate shoot back with, “Well at least one’s hanging out your nostril.”
In their final match for the games, the Southerners were playing for the bronze medal or fourth position. They didn’t made a particularly intimidating impression as they hobbled onto the court – everyone except Big Mouth Peter and Cliff Young in his back-to-front shorts was limping, bruised, taped or strapped and it was obvious that the effort involved in bending down to retrieve a drink bottle out of a sports bag was a challenge indeed.
Their opposition were tall and a lot were wearing glasses. One fella had a huge white pair on which reminded me of the guy who sang ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’; or maybe he was off to see ‘Shark Boy and Lava Girl’ in 3D after the game. Their number 23 shuffled along like a two year old with a full nappy; and another player reminded me of the Ooompah Looompah from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. I also noted that singlets on over 60s aren’t too flattering when there was such an array of fuzzy, hairy shoulders on display.
Despite these weird characters, they won the game. Even so, the ‘Southerners’ defended well, shot their fair share of points and made their opposition work pretty hard for their victory. The final score – 35 – 49 showed how far they’d come in just five days. On Monday they were meeting each other for the first time and having their scores tripled; and on Friday they were clearly playing together as a team and were much more competitive. They knew each others’ strengths and where they’d be found on court, but, on the negative side, they also had a hell of a lot more strapping, deep heat, ice packs, limping and grimacing to contend with.
Later when Dad and I were walking (or hobbling, in his case, with one of his lower legs twice as large as the other due to inflammation) to the car park, he said to me, “I just hope that I at least looked as though I used to know how to play basketball, and not embarrassingly clueless.”
“You didn’t, Dad. You couldn’t jump; your left leg was noticeably larger than your right one even out on court; you missed a few points because you had a 7 foot giant leaning over you, but yes, we could all see that you knew what you were doing.”
More importantly, he was out there – how many 64 year olds can say that they spent a week playing basketball?