Ezy Reading: Delusions of Grandeur and the Fountain of Youth

Evan Kanarakis

It was foolish, really. I was invited to fill in this week on an old mate's basketball team as they were missing players still away on summer vacation.

 I'd played plenty of basketball when I was younger, but it had been about four years since I'd stepped onto the court for any sort of competition game, and fitness levels 'which were never that crash-hot to begin with' were certainly not what you might call 'game ready'. Still, ignoring other's warnings, with a healthy mix of Dutch courage, foolish ego and assurances that 'it's not really that high-level a competition' on board, I enthusiastically agreed to play hoops.

Unfortunately, the problem with this kind of over-confidence (as I soon discovered), is that short of something seriously debilitating happening to you that is completely, physically obvious 'a balding head, incontinence, losing your keys, that sort of thing' you don't often realise your own age the older you get. At 29 I'm certainly not due to check into the retirement home and ask for my ration of bran flakes just yet, nor am I going to turn into someone like Michael Landon of Highway To Heaven fame and turn 53 twelve years in a row, but the signs are already there that I might be living in a rather deluded age of mind.

I'm fully aware of the fact that from the age of about 27 or so it's quite common for folks to start getting married and having babies, for instance, but that doesn't mean I've ever paused to realise that I'm anywhere near being of an age where these sorts of things could possibly happen to me. Right or wrong, somewhat unconsciously, in my mind's eye I may as well still be fourteen, giggling about Belinda Carlisle's boobs and trying to buy bottles of Lambrusco with my fake ID. In another example, a few weeks ago I was recounting for a friend the details of a surprise party I'd been to the night before. Without any thought of it, one detail I included was that 'it was mainly young people there... but a couple of grown-ups as well.' Upon this my friend wrinkled her nose, befuddled, and notified me that in fact I was actually one of those aforementioned 'grown ups'. Worse, I was already likely being considered a 'grown'up' by a whole new generation of kids now giggling at Lindsay Lohan's boobs and trying to buy bottles of Lambrusco with their fake ID's.

I had no idea.

And so it is, in the same turn, that I turned up this past Wednesday night to play basketball against a team of seventeen to twenty year olds and not once did it occur to me that playing against guys roughly ten years my junior would prove to be a problem.

I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say we lost 64-42 and although I managed to pull in a couple of rebounds and score a few very ugly buckets it wasn't exactly the Willis Reed 'risen from the dead heroic comeback game I'd been hoping for. Those guys were quick. Really quick. It didn't help matters that somewhere within the first five minutes of the game I'm pretty sure I coughed out a lung onto the scorer's table, thereby resulting in my trailing most fast breaks by a good ninety metres for the remainder of the match. Even worse, spurred on by the captain's stirring half-time speech that involved a desperate plea to 'buy a jug of beer for anyone... anyone who might be interested in playing defence', I fouled out in the second half with sixteen minutes left to play. Without reserves on the bench, that left my team playing four'on'five and rapidly running out of gas to keep up (though it must be said, it was kind of four-on-four as I'd given the opposing centre a jarring dead'leg when I fell on him during the jump ball don't ask).

But if the game hadn't served as enough proof I wasn't as young as I used to be, I can attest to the fact that proof enough has arrived in the searing pain that has been throbbing through my body ever since the final buzzer sounded. Sore ankles, a stiff back, muscles in my arms that I didn't even know existed they've all joined forces and incited my nerve endings to riot. Believe me, these past few days I've popped enough pills to put Courtney Love to shame...

Pain of defeat and of body aside, however, while undoubtedly at some point our advancing age may limit what we can and can't do, and good sense will overcome pride and hopefully limit what we shouldn't do, why the hell close up shop? Why dive headlong into some sort of predetermined role that tells us we should be 'acting our age'? The fact is, I'm sure life flies by far too quickly that we should be compelled into growing up and settling down earlier than is necessary. From what I hear about getting older, it seems clear that you'll likely have no choice in the matter once things start to pack it in anyway. So instead of feeling you need to 'find a partner and settle down now', 'buy a house', or 'avoid entering jousting tournaments', how about you be sure to enjoy the fact your hips are still working, you can start and finish peeing within thirty seconds, and you don't need to move to a warmer climate just to get out of bed in the morning. There's time enough to worry about paying for your child's university tuition, repainting the spare bedroom and buying man'nappies later. Yes, foresight and planning play an important role in getting ahead in life, but I don't think there's too much loss in spending at least one more day contemplating Belinda Carlisle's boobs, playing some ball and enjoying a guilt-free beer afterward. Besides, those other things 'those stocks and bonds, collared shirts and sets of silverware they seem to have a habit of working themselves out anyway.

Thing is, I enjoyed running out on the court again on Wednesday night. I enjoyed jumping for rebounds and (somewhat) diving for loose balls. And I've actually enjoyed the aches and pains. Seriously. Its been invigorating. Which is why when the lads asked me back next week to join their team for the rest of the season I told my knees, my pride and my remaining lung to shut-up and suck it in and wholeheartedly accepted the offer. I'm well aware of the fact I'm 29 and only getting older. I'm not delusional about my age. But pausing to worry about getting older? Pausing to worry about of what 'a man of my age' should or shouldn't be doing? Sod it. I can think about slowing down and taking stock when I'm 40 or 50... Or whenever it is that I finally, far off in the future, turn into one of those distant, hard-to-relate-to grown-ups.

Check in every Monday for another edition of Ezy Reading. The author would ask that this article not be brought up in conversation should he break his leg next Wednesday or never be able to afford a home.