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Blog: Why Do Older Men Keep Approaching Me?

(originally written 6/1/16)

It's happened three times now.

I'll be on the court, working solo, fully engrossed in my conditioning routine, hoping to get through two hours without being injured. Or bothered.

Sometimes, wayward toddlers scamper onto the court briefly. Other times, somebody will shout out something supportive—like the petite blonde jogger who yelled something like "I'd like your motivation!" as she raced by. Or the gal who ordered me to sink a three-pointer on command. (I did.) Once, a dog ran on the court and "guarded" me.

It's all good. I can live with that.

In the past year, however, a troubling pattern has developed—older men, and by older I mean at minimum eight years older—are challenging me to one-on-one hoops, with legitimate hopes of actually beating me.

That wasn't me trying to be cocky—just realistic. Younger, sprier, springier dudes school me all the time. I, in turn, school my elders in similar fashion. It's not cockiness. It's biology.

It began last year at San Jose's Ryland Park. I've told everyone who will listen about it already—fit, athletic 44-year-old guy challenges then-35-year-old me to one-on-one. He's only about 5'10" and hasn't played in a while, so I know I will beat him. When he openly mistakes me to be 42, I know I will crush him. And I do, 11-0 twice in a row, leaving him sprawled in the grass huffing for air afterward.

Fast-forward to earlier this year at Carmichael Park, Santa Clara: A guy I later find out is allegedly 48 (he seemed even older) suggests we play "first to 25". I'm not too hard on this guy—he just seems to want exercise, unlike the others who are out to prove something. Even while exclusively shooting from outside and rarely jumping to keep it fair (dude is like 5'9", 175), I win 25-4. How else could it have ended? The guy was at least 48 and small.

Note: this opponent didn't help himself by obsessively yakking about the Warriors throughout. It's kind of tough to defend large men while trying to remember final scores from Christmas Day. I wasn't there to talk about the past. Just sayin'. 

Finally, last week in American Canyon: 52-year-old guy hits a few warmup J's and decides he wants a piece of 36-year-old moi, who's been shooting for an hour already. He's in decent (not great) shape for his age, can shoot a little, and is pushing 6'0", so I doubt I'll crush him, but I do beat him three straight times (something like 11-6, 11-2, 11-5), again without really using my size advantage at all except rebounding.

There's not much personal satisfaction in these wins. Remember, the challenges materialized because these older dudes witnessed me in action, and were unimpressed enough to deem me beatable. And being deemed beatable by dudes who potentially voted for Walter Mondale isn't much of an ego stroke.

So I'll keep chugging along, and update you when I'm forced to run circles around an overconfident 56-year-old grandfather...which should be happening any day now.

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