Bill Reid, 63, saw a sign at the St. John's Recreation Center in Bed-Stuy and thought he'd check it out: the inaugural Brooklyn Senior Games.
"Ok, I'll see what I can do," he remembers thinking.
He and his teammate got first place in bowling for the 60-64 age group on Tuesday, though he hadn't done it in years. Wednesday was a more familiar pastime — basketball.
"Everything in my body hurts," Reid says, since he got a herniated disk a while back. On the bench for the first half of the championship game, he directed the other seniors with the authority of a coach.
The seniors, wearing blue and white Junior Knicks jerseys they’d been given for the game, worked up a sweat on the rec center court until the halftime break — "which we needed," says Reid, particularly since there were no team time-outs.
The Brooklyn Senior Games began on Monday with a torch relay run stretching from McCarren Park to Brownsville.
The games included track and field, table tennis, basketball, swimming and options for less agile — bowling and board games.
The borough-wide senior games are the first of their kind. The idea for the events came after a Brooklyn senior participated in senior competitions elsewhere and suggested the idea to local officials.
The Parks Department reported approximately 100 attendees and participants at the cauldron-lighting ceremony on Tuesday.
The 12-man basketball tournament was mostly populated with regulars of the local rec center senior game, but familiarity only made the championship more personal.
One newcomer, Thor David, 64, changed into shorts and repeatedly asked whether anyone needed a sub. "Y'all want to win, put me in the game," he said. In the second half, he jumped in, and took two well-stroked jumpers that rimmed out. ("Too much adrenaline," he said later.)
Reid was on the other side, and upon entering the game, he scored the first point (everything counts as one) of the half with a bouncy give-and-go.
Playing tight defense in the high-impact three-on-three, he stole the ball from a bigger opponent and quickly scored on a jumper, putting his squad up by four. Then, he called for a sub.
“No more energy,” he said on the sidelines once again, sweating profusely and grinning. Soon, he had breath enough to keep coaching.
“Pass it around, pass it around,” he said. “Control. Play d.” His squad's defense was sharp, with good helping off the ball and refusing to fall for pump fakes. The other team never got any closer, and Reid’s team won comfortably, nine to five.
For the competition (and the food)
Some of the seniors on the basketball court were disappointed they hadn’t faced more far-flung competition than their usual rec center crew. But Reid, whose brother-in-law was among the vanquished, said he told them they were being silly.
“C’mon, we got refs here,” he said. He was considering entering the track and field contest later in the week, but was less enthused when he heard it was a full 100 meters. He mused the distance, fingering the gold medal he’d been handed after the game.
The two referees, in professional black and white, packed up for the day. They said they hoped the event would be bigger next year.
“Senior citizens need to work out and have fun, just like kids do,” said the first, Robert Brown, 57.
“They should do this citywide,” said the second, Gregory Kortright, 62, who said he himself is a member of AARP and noted that May is Senior Month.
They were impressed by the stamina of the basketball players, who made it through multiple 11 minute games. They hoped to see more next year, if the idea were revived — the Parks Department says the topic is still under discussion.
“Have food,” said Brown. “Seniors will come for food.”
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