The empty playground

One way to keep in shape during the long Wisconsin winters is to run inside. The track at our Y provides a bird’s-eye view of the basketball courts. So, as I plod around the track, I keep an eye on those playing ball below.

One day, there were two boys, maybe middle school age, joyfully working on their half-court shots.

Another day, they’d set up a small stage for a fitness event. It sat near the half-court line. There were three or four girls shooting around. One of them — a high school freshman, so maybe still just 14 or 15 — hopped up on the stage and joyfully started shooting rangefinders from there.

Last week, it was me, joyfully shooting the short-range jumpers no one shoots anymore. I step onto that court and the years just seem to fall away. I am 17 again, or 27, or even 37. The rhythms are the same now as in the ’70s. The feel of the ball spinning in your hand is the same now as in the ’80s.

Basketball is great that way, because all you need is a ball and a hoop. If there’s no one around, you can still go.

Saying this more wistfully than anything, there really is no one around anymore. My knees, ankles and Achilles long ago demanded that I retire from any kind of competitive basketball. Almost everyone I played with has retired, too. Yet, from time to time, I just shoot.

There used to be a battered radio at the base of the basket. Now I listen to the iPod while I shoot.

The beat goes on.


“Growing Older But Not Up,” Jimmy Buffett, from “Coconut Telegraph,” 1980. Also available digitally.

I’m growing older but not up
My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck
So let the winds of change blow over my head
I’d rather die while I’m living then live while I’m dead

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under March 2013, Sounds

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