Darren Cole is a sports writer for St. George News and is participating in the Huntsman World Senior Games for the first time. He is compiling this diary to document his experience.
So I turned 50 this year. I did not consider it much of a milestone, but I guess it is. Because I am now eligible to play in the Huntsman Senior games. As a spectator of previous Senior games I never fully appreciated the opportunity that would soon arrive. As I watched last year, particularly the 50-54 age bracket in basketball, my first thought was that I could dominate if I was playing. Since then I have taken a couple of doses of reality and washed that down with some humility. Okay, so maybe I won’t dominate, but I could probably contribute on a good team.
I grew up in Indiana. Not so much today, but in the 1970s high school basketball was the only thing that happened on Friday and Saturday nights in the fall. The streets of the cities and towns were sparsely populated because everybody was watching the games. In Indiana, they call it Hoosier Hysteria. So basketball was my first love. I have since added golf and scuba diving, but that is another story.
There were a few things I had to do to prep for these games and No. 1 was to get myself in shape (I worked seriously on that for about three days). There was the miscellany, like buying uniforms, clearing my schedule, et cetera.
But the most important task was getting a team together. So about four months ago, I started calling everybody I knew that played basketball. There are a few that I really hoped would play. I have a twin brother. Except we don’t look like twins. He is 6 inches taller than me and can crush me like a bug.
Then there is our older brother, who is 51 this year. He happens to be the star athlete in our family. My twin, Shawn, committed. The other one, Scott, declined. It is football season and he happens to be a coach of his son’s team. Apparently that is more important than playing with your brothers in the Senior Games. Shawn initially declined, due to his employment (he works on the pipeline). But then he got laid off. His misfortune was my gain – Of course, that is not how I approached it when I asked him again.
Next were some guys I played city league with eons ago. I got one of them to commit– Jeff, who played at Utah State, or so he claims. He also just turned 50. I tried to get a former missionary companion to come — Ron, who played at CEU, or so he claims. Ron declined – something about his knees.
So then I turned to the local guys that play ball here. There is Townie, a retired basketball coach who happens to be from Indiana. That right there tells you he can play.
Next was Bryce. He helped me coach my church youth team. He is in good shape and a good post defender.
I then called a friend that I had not seen in about six months – Tom. For good reason – he’s a baller. Apparently he had knee surgery. But he was sure that he would be healed and ready to go by the time the games would begin.
Last was Kevin, someone who I had recently met. He played with another team last year. I think they ended up in last place. I did not ask because I am not sure if that is a sore subject or not. Kevin has a caveat. He cannot play the first day because he has to attend a three-day conference out of town.
That is seven guys. I know that seems like a lot for three-on-three, but I figured that would give us a lot of fouls to play with, plus WE ARE OLD. I’m not sure how the toll of multiple games in a three-day period will affect our less-than-perfect physiques.
Fast forward a few months. About two weeks ago I got hit with devastating news on two fronts. My twin got his job back. Normally that would be good news. But remember that part where I said his misfortune was my gain. Well, now reverse that.
The next day I get a text from Townie. He has nerve damage in his shooting shoulder. He can’t play in the Senior Games. My first thought is that he can still play defense and pass me the ball, so what’s the problem? It is no use.
So now two weeks before the games begin, we are back down to five, four on the first day because Kevin is out of town. I begin to frantically redial all of the earlier noncommits and beg them to play. I call a few more local people, even guys I have never met based on what other people have told me.
Everyone has “plans.” Not sure if that means they actually have plans or if they just don’t want to play with me. I am betting on the latter.
So the Monday before the games I get a reversal of fortune, or misfortune. No, my twin still is employed, unfortunately. But Townie texts me that he can play and Kevin tells me he will skip the last day of his conference to be there on Thursday. Back up to six.
So now it is Tuesday night. I missed the opening ceremonies because I officiated and then covered the Dixie-Desert Hills volleyball match. But I plan to get as much of the Senior Games experience as I can.
Yesterday I got to see some of the women’s three-on-three basketball. As a high school basketball referee, I truly could admire not only the tenacity and skill these women displayed but also the sportsmanship that the Senior Games inspire. I look forward to meeting and making new friends, both local and from out of town.
But most of all I get to enjoy my first love again.
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