January 29, 2009 (Korean time) at about 2:00 p.m., I put on my rucksack and Chicago Bears baseball-type hat and started out for my constitutional walk. I planned to stop by a billiards hall to check out the fee for playing an hour (9,000 weon) before going on to the health club for a sauna and a shower. On my way, a short distance from my apartment, I passed by the familiar basketball court that I pass by each time I go for a walk. Each time I go by the court I feel the temptation, that old urge, to once again pick-up a basketball, if one were available, to stop and shoot a few baskets. On several occasions I found the court occupied by some young Koreans shooting and playing the game of basketball. Each time upon seeing the play I felt drawn by a deep force of desire to get as close to the action as possible. I sat close to the court as possible without interfering with the play on a bench beneath an open shelter wistfully wanting to participate in the game myself. Up and until yesterday my arthritic knees and right shoulder kept me from attempting to impose myself upon the young men, especially if they were playing a competitive match. Yesterday, everything was ripe for me to adventure into the unknown, at least for a 66-year-old man (using Korean age numbers).
Yesterday, as I approached the basketball court, two teenage Koreans, about 16 or 17 years of age, occupied the court. I sat down at my usual spot and watched them for a while. They were just horsing around and practicing different moves and shooting. Lately, I had gone to the doctor and received successful treatment for my allergies and asthma, which simultaneously reduced the pain in my knees, back, and right shoulder. As I watched I felt the urge to participate and proceeded to standup and when the opportunity presented itself, I retrieved an errant shot from the side and passed it back to one of the young fellows. Soon, I retrieved another errant shot and took that opportunity to fire a shot from the side and sunk it. It surprised me and them as well, as they yelled a cry for a successful shot, as making a basket is a very important quest for any basketball player, even an old man like me. Their yell encouraged me to take that final step to test myself by entering the fray of rebounding, shooting, and dribbling.
As I quickly determined their acceptance of me into their territory, I made sure I became immediately useful to them. I became a rebounder and passed the ball to them to shoot and practice their moves to the basket. I observed their moves to the basket became more animated and their moves more difficult in their efforts to show off their skills and to impress me. That pleased me greatly and made me feel welcomed to their club. After a reasonable amount of time I recommended we play “around the world,” a game known by basketball players around the world, no pun intended, although it is a pun. I demonstrated how the game is played, and despite a communication problem they quickly caught on and we played for about an hour.
At the end of play we said good-bye, and I went on my way and headed downtown to the 3rd floor billiards hall. After walking a short distance I heard a commotion coming from behind me. I looked back and saw both of the young men running after me and hollering something in Korean. I didn’t know exactly what it meant, but I figured they wanted me to wait there until they caught up with me. The taller of the two fellows caught up with me first. He excitedly showed me his cell phone and said, “photo.” I realized immediately he wanted to take a picture of me with the two of them. Shortly, the other guy rushed up, and the three of us put our heads together and the taller of the two, who had arrived first, stretched out his arm as far as possible, gave the warning that the picture would soon snap and took our picture. Satisfied, they said goodbye and went happily toward their apartment close by in a sixteen story skyscraper. I turned back around and headed to the billiards room. What a wonderful day for on old man like me. I still love playing basketball. RDH