Cllay Moyle and Caleb Moyle for column



I’m coming up on age 58 in a couple months and really starting to wonder just how much longer I can, or should, continue to play basketball. It’s the only form of exercise I really enjoy.

Other than lacing ‘em up and trying to keep up with much younger men every Saturday morning at the local junior high, I really only go for lunchtime runs at work or lift weights and labor away on an elliptical machine or stair-climber at the local gym, and I find those activities downright mind numbing.

While basketball isn’t anywhere near as fun to play as it was when I was younger and could run and jump so much better than I can now, I still get a lot of enjoyment out of the game and love the competition.

I can’t say I enjoy rolling out of bed at 5:30 on a Saturday morning to get ready to go and play with the fellas, but I find myself doing so whenever I’m physically able because I get so much enjoyment out of it.

So, in between bites of oatmeal on those mornings, I go through a regimen of stretches and exercises in an effort to minimize my chance of injury and hope for the best in that regard.

Once I start driving toward the gym, I begin to put my game face on and focus on what I want to do on the court that morning. More often than not, I’ll arrive before anyone else and end up waiting 5-10 minutes for the gym to be opened. I just can’t help myself because I want to get inside as quickly as possible to get warmed up before enough guys arrive to start the first full court game.

While many of the guys are shooting the bull, I’m typically all business off at a side basket working my way through a variety of shots and ball-handling drills in preparation for the action.

Once we begin playing, I could end matched up against anyone. I never know from one week, or one game, to the next who I’m going to end up guarding. The only thing I know for sure is that at my age I’ll be covering someone younger. It’s just a matter of how much younger.

Sometimes it will be an individual in his forties or maybe even a six-foot-three 50-year old, but just as often it will be a young man in his twenties.

Either way, I can still get up and down the court reasonably, especially considering my ripe old basketball age, and I don’t believe any of the competition views me as a soft tough defensively. Although, I can only imagine how much I would have abused some poor guy in his 50s when I was in my twenties. I never had that opportunity, I think the oldest guy I can remember competing against when I was that young was around 42.

I’ve lost too many gears over the years to count, but I assisted with the coaching of a local 5th/6th grade select team last summer and regularly ran sprints with that team and discovered that at least I can still outrun the 11-12 year-olds.

So, as long as I employ good footwork and leave a proper amount of spacing defensively, I can still do a decent job of keeping up with the young speed burners. At least in a typical basketball game setting that is, it would be another story altogether in a sprinting competition.

A few years ago, I was curious to learn just how much slower I was these days. So, after a ballgame that included the fastest kid on the local high school team, I asked him to race me from baseline to baseline. When another party hollered go I got a great jump and actually had a slight lead on him by the time we reached half-court. But, then he blew by me and I’d only reached the opposite free throw line as he passed the baseline.

I had no illusions of being able to win that race. I really just wanted to see how badly I’d actually be beaten. I have a hunch he would have beaten at least three-quarters of the other fellows on-hand just as badly, so I figured there was no shame in the result and it gave me a good idea as to just where I stood at that point.

But, boy is it getting tougher and tougher to stay healthy enough to play on Saturday mornings. A few months ago, a fellow stuck a finger in my eye when he took a swipe at the ball on my way toward the hoop and I’ve been experiencing some vertical lightning like flashes of light out of that eye on occasion throughout the day.

I immediately saw an eye doctor after that happened and learned that as we age the vitreous in our eye shrinks and separates form the retina. As this occurs, floaters may appear. Apparently, you’re brain slowly learns to ignore them and I read where after several months you may hardly notice them.

I don’t know exactly if that’s what happened but it’s obvious the finger in the eye didn’t do me any good.

While I haven’t experienced any floaters or black dots, and I was told that if I did to immediately come back in because it could mean a torn retina, when it comes to these lightning like streaks there apparently isn’t really anything to do for them. They may or may not go away.

A number of months prior to that, I got my right hand on a rebound at the same time a big fellow grabbed it with two, and instead of letting go I foolishly hung on while he violently pulled it away. I immediately felt a sharp pain in that shoulder, but it was still fully functional.

When the mild throbbing in that shoulder didn’t disappeared after a couple months, I went in and had it checked out. Long story short, after getting an MRI I was told that my right rotator cuff had a 75 percent tear.

But, after consulting with two different specialists I learned that it would continue to function just as well without surgery. There’s a possibility it may never tear any more than it already has, and if it does tear completely, I was told a surgery to repair it at that time would have just as much chance of success as it would now anyway.

So, I opted to receive some physical therapy and have now added a series of exercises to strengthen the smaller surrounding muscles in the shoulder to add greater stability. As long as I do those exercises, I find that I don’t experience much pain, although playing basketball clearly aggravates the shoulder and I experience some discomfort for a day or two afterward.

I guess the bottom line is that I’ve come to learn a great deal more about my body over the past 10 years as a result of five surgeries and various injuries than I did over the preceding 47.

Three weeks ago, I played ball and when I finished my left knee was absolutely killing me. I was limping all over the place. There was no swelling but the inner part of my left knee felt a lot like both did when I previously tore my meniscuses in those knees.

Upon reflection, I remembered that toward the end of the last game I played, a defender had applied some pressure against me and I’d jab stepped one way and then immediately executed a hard spin dribble in the opposite direction. That’s how I tore a meniscus for the first time a couple years ago, planting my foot near midcourt on a fast break with the ball and then executing a hard 180-degreee spin dribble in the opposite direction.

I think it may have finally sunk in that a spin dribble should no longer be a part of my offensive arsenal. My knees just can’t take that kind of strain any more.

It remains to be seen if I actually tore my meniscus again. I’ve taken three weeks off from basketball and will give it another go this Saturday. Afterward, if it doesn’t feel any worse, or very little than the other knee does, I’ll figure I’m good to continue to go. But, if my knee causes me any problem, I’ll go ahead and get an MRI to determine if I really did tear it again and possibly opt to get it cleaned up.

My wife gives me a hard time once in a while about playing ball and on more than one occasion has told me she’d like to be able to go for walks together in our old age.

So, I think about that from time to time and wonder if I shouldn’t just hang it up now before I suffer any further damage. But then again I still enjoy the heck out of playing the game and I take a lot of pride in still being able to get out there and compete against those guys at my age.

Just prior to tweaking my knee, I’d been having a ball out there. I’d drained a couple of long game-winning three pointers and I get a real kick out of hearing the opposition hollering out to my defender to “Watch out for Clay” as they worry about me being left open for a three-pointer.

I had one youngster come up to me after I’d made a game-winning shot from outside and remark that it must be true, the shot really is the last thing to go. Yeah, I guess that’s right, but it’s also true that the legs are the first thing to go and I’m not sure how much longer mine are going to hold up.

I’ve worked and trained like heck the past two decades to slow the decline as much as I can, but there’s no way to avoid it. All you can do is slow the inevitable. These days, I feel like I’m continually walking a fine line as I strive to stay in condition to play the game at a level I want to while also avoiding injury.

Lately, I’ve got this idea in my head that it would be pretty cool if I could continue to play with these guys until I was 60. That’s only a little more than two years away. But, if these past few months are any indication of the future, that goal is starting to look a lot more difficult than it sounds.

At the same time, I hear folks like my wife and mother urging me to slow down and give up playing ball on Saturday’s because they’ve seen how often I get hurt these days. Like I said, my wife wonders what kind of physical wreck for a partner she’s going to be saddled with in the future.

But lately I’ve been thinking more along the lines of living in the moment. Who the heck knows what tomorrow will bring no matter what you do today anyway? I have a 75-year-old uncle who was doing great five years ago. Now he’s suffering very badly from Alzheimer’s and spends the majority of his time in bed all day.

I was recently shocked to learn that one in nine Americans over the age of 65 suffers from some form of that disease. I came across that on the other day. Crazy, I had no idea.

I’ve lost a few classmates over the past few years and have no idea what my own future holds. So, while I can, I think I’ll just keep trying to play a game that I still love to play. My father told me that he could still outrun the girls on the varsity basketball team that he assisted with into his 50s, but that after he turned 60 he started to decline pretty quickly physically.

So, I suspect that it won’t be long before my own basketball playing experiences are limited to lame half-court ballgames and/or playing HORSE. But, until then it’s full, er… three-quarter speed ahead.