Keeping track of the score in pickup basketball can drive you crazy

sneakers3Keeping track of the score in pickup basketball games has been an irritation all my life. The combination of faulty memories and habitual cheating has ignited far too many frustrating, game-delaying arguments.

Such disputes come at a cost at my athletic club in Sacramento. The basketball czar has decreed that the time clock can’t be stopped during games except for injuries. Time spent arguing is time lost from action in our games, which average about 15 minutes.

This rule is one of many designed to accommodate the large number of players who descend on the club at peak hours. The czar wants to make sure the full-court games keep moving along. Morning sessions are played under power-ball rules, meaning winners stay on the court for up to three games. The noon and afternoon sessions give players two straight games, win or lose. If you want more action, you have to sign up for another rotation.

In my younger days, I preferred the competitiveness of power ball and didn’t stiffen up too much when I had a long wait between games. Now, at 71, I prefer the two-game system because I can warm up properly and get a decent workout – at least when there aren’t time-wasting arguments over the score.

I get rather impatient when I see the seconds go down the drain. Some of my fellow players are heavily invested in determining who is ahead.  At the one-minute mark, I’m likely to shout “Play ball, guys! Who the f … cares about the score?”

In fact, I know the arguers care because one is probably a compulsive score tracker, another is a certifiable liar, and a couple of others overrate their memory as much as their three-point shooting ability.

Among the 40-and-over crowd, I suspect several proud but out-of-shape players routinely demand score checks as a way of catching their breath. Evidently, walking the ball up the court doesn’t do the job.

At my age, I suppose I should be cultivating patience and tolerance, but something about the basketball court keeps me in a state of arrested development. I resent self-appointed “coaches” giving me instructions. I despise whiners who cry foul when they can’t get the baseline. And I don’t take kindly to ageism masquerading as indifference.

Recently, I found myself matched up against a solid player half my age. He was also taller and quicker. I made a short jumper and then gave him a nice head fake to get free for a second basket. After that, he adopted a too-cool-for-school attitude and didn’t bother to guard me at all. I ran up a string of baskets, and he did nothing. He wasn’t going to pretend I should be taken seriously.

I’ve always taken pride in my defense and hated to have anyone, regardless of age, score off me. In my teenage days, I’d go out to the top of the key to try to stop old guys – 40 in that era was ancient – with their two-hand set shots. At the club, I do my best against speedy high school kids brought to the Saturday games by proud fathers. Ability displayed on the court should be respected.

When you play basketball for a long time, you carry a lot of baggage. It reduces the satisfaction level. I find a long soak in the hot tub helps.

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5 Responses to Keeping track of the score in pickup basketball can drive you crazy

  1. Anonymous says:

    Paul, you should be thankful that your knees are good enough for you to ball. My knees betrayed me in my mid 40’s. Too much basketball and racquetball.

  2. John C Clegg says:

    IF I WERE A MEMBER OF YOUR CLUB, JUST LOOKING TO PLAY THE
    “GAME” OF BASKETBALL & GET SOME EXERCISE, I WOULD OPT FOR
    TWO GAMES OF 15 MINUTES EACH WITH NO SCOREKEEPING, THEN
    BOTH TEAMS EXIT THE COURT. EVERYONE SHOULD LEAVE THEIR
    EGOS IN THE LOCKER ROOM. YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BE
    RECRUITED FOR THE NBA! JUST GO OUT ON THE FLOOR & ENJOY
    PLAYING THE WONDERFUL “GAME” INVENTED BY DOC NAISMITH,
    TO BE PLAYED INDOORS TO FILL THE NEW ENGLAND WINTER
    VOID BETWEEN FOOTBALL & BASEBALL SEASONS. AND STOP THE
    INFANTILE ARGUING THAT’S WASTING PRECIOUS COURT TIME.
    EVERYBODY RELAX & CONCENTRATE ON IMPROVING YOUR SKILLS.
    THAT’S THE KIND OF ATHLETIC CLUB I WOULD JOIN!! YO BRO, JCC.e

  3. Tom Quinn says:

    Fun post, Paul. My sugg for reducing arguments: Delete the power ball rule. Everyone plays 2 games, win or lose.
    And have a nonpartisan spectator shout out the score after each bucket. In my pickup games one of us would do so after each basket; the only issue to debate after each game was whether or not I scored yet another triple-double.
    And I agree that a long soak unloads baggage, especially footwise. #TimeWoundsAllHeels

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