Dribbling Geezers vs. J2 Shooters
On August 9th, an over 50 basketball team from Yokohama, Japan, faced off with an over 40 basketball Meetup from San Jose, California. The game was organized by two players named Mike – Mike B. from California, and Mike S. from Japan. We caught up with both Mikes after the game to learn how it all came about…and, of course, to find out who won.
“I grew up playing basketball,” Mike B. explains, “but when I turned 35 I felt too old to keep playing. I thought, ‘okay, this is a sport I can’t play anymore.’” He stopped playing, and shortly after turning 50, found himself joining Meetups about everything from business networking, to food and film. “I joined all these Meetups and realized, ‘I think I can pull this off and start to play again,’” he remembers. In December 2011, he created the Over 40 Pickup Basketball Meetup in San Jose, California. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. “I think there are a lot of people like me, who grew up playing and gave it up when they got older,” he says. “We’ve had people come from up to 70 miles away to play.” Today the Meetup is over 130 members strong. “I’m always blown away when I see how many Meetups we’ve had. It’s really amazing. It’s changed a lot of people’s lives. Most of the people who play say, ‘I haven’t played in ten years!’ One guy lost 30 pounds since he started playing again.”
Over 5,000 miles away, in Yokohama, Japan, Mike S. plays on a similar team for basketball players over 50. “I’ve played with my team in Yokohama for just a little over a year,” he says. “These guys are all retired and some have played together since high school, for more than 40 years now. We practice a couple times a month and get together once a month for a senior tournament.” The team also travels together to watch and play games outside of Japan. A few months back, they got to work planning their third overseas trip, this time to California. As the only English speaker on the team, Mike S. helped out with the planning. “Our organizer asked me to arrange a game in California,” he says. “I did a search online for seniors basketball and up came Mike B.’s Meetup.”
A few weeks later, the two teams met up for an international basketball showdown. Mike B. christened the teams the J2 Shooters (Japan) and the Dribbling Geezers (USA), and we sent custom jerseys to commemorate the occasion. “No one besides Mike S. spoke English on their team,” says Mike B. “But one of the players on our team speaks Japanese really well so he volunteered to be the referee.” Despite the language barrier, the game went off without a hitch. “We all know basketball,” says Mike S, “and Mike B. was great about making us feel welcome.”
When the official game came to an end, the playing continued. “After the game, we started playing on new teams,” says Mike B. “I was playing with three of the Japanese players and two of my own teammates.” Despite the mixed teams, communication flowed naturally. “You do have to communicate,” explains Mike B. “but the way you communicate is through basketball – ‘I go here, so you throw there,’ and so on. Verbal communication was limited, but communication wasn’t.” Everyone enjoyed themselves late into the afternoon. “We had a great time playing with Mike’s team,” says Mike S. The sentiment was mutual. “It made us all feel 40 again,” jokes Mike B.
As for who won? “ Mike B.’s team had more points,” reports Mike S., “but we all felt like winners.”