I dragged my feet (a dragging not only of reluctance, but of aging joints,
stiffness, soreness), and then I succumbed to pressures to join a recreational
basketball team for the next ten weeks. It’s been
almost a year
since the strange pinch that blossomed into weeks and weeks of appointments,
scans, and eventually a cortisone injection late last spring. I really don’t
know whether the cartilage ulceration will, yet again, ulcerate, but I also
think of this as a last chance to play hoops. If not now, when?

I haven’t ever played in many rec leagues. After high school, when I
was seventeen and taking a freshman courseload at Central Michigan, I joined a
team in the men’s league in the old high school gymnasium every Sunday. We
didn’t win many games. The sponsor was one of the
local saw mills,
Maeder Bros., I think. And later, after I finished undergrad work and took my
first post-bacc. gig around Saginaw, Mich., I joined up with a squad from Bay
City sponsored by Green’s Tavern. Kelly green tops. It was very much
about the post-game beers back at Green’s. And local lore had it that Bay
City sported more bars per capita than any other U.S. city. That right?
And it was with Green’s Tavern that I regained my confidence after season-ending
right shoulder surgery the year before, my final season at alma mater. Later on,
in Kansas City, there were a couple of leagues, but nothing memorable–more
pick-up and open gym gatherings than anything else.

Without going into the full details, I’m on a sponsored team again. Playing in a suburban Syracuse church league. No practices. Just games. Forty-minute running clock (the last two
minutes of each half, it stops). And the best part: six fouls.
Plenty for a running clock. The division we’re in assumes the names of programs
in the Big Ten, and because we’re the new team, I’m told we’ll be known as Penn
State. When I said to the team captain, "Penn State?!," he said, "I can
probably still change it to Minnesota." And then Penn State was back to
sounding okay (a judgment applied exclusively in the domain of hoops). Tip-off
tomorrow, in the name of once-a-week fun and decompression. May it go well enough that
I’m able to mention it again.

Added: Game 1 was a 63-44 loss to one of stronger teams in the league. I was able to walk the stairs to get out of the gym afterward, so that’s something. Ended with five fouls (three ticky-tacks in the first half, and one that should’ve been a charge to bring me to five).