Boys and Their Games: How Far Some Men Go to Play Pickup Soccer

For those of you who have the unfortunate fate in life to be linked to a man who loves playing pickup sports (I’m thinking wives here, primarily), this selection might provide some solace.  There is strength in numbers, after all.

It comes at the beginning of a NYT Magazine piece entitled “Vigor Quest” by Tom Dunkel on the lengths to which some older folks are going to keep their bodies young in order to play sports.  That’s a matter deserving consideration.  But you’ll get no such rumination from this little blog.  Instead, I merely wanted to quote this to show that, as many know, men will go to utterly insane lengths to, well, play sports.  If that seems crazy, it’s because it is.  It’s also how things are.  Sorry.

Enough blathering.  Here’s the quotation from the article:

NEARLY EVERY SUNDAY morning — Easter and Mother’s Day included — John Bellizzi says goodbye to his wife, Francesca, grabs an equipment bag and slides into the front seat of his black BMW. He drives to a high-school soccer field about 10 miles from his home in the New York City suburb of Rye.

Bellizzi, who is 51, is a member of the Old Timers Soccer Club, a band of stubborn, aging athletes who refuse to fall under the spell of golf. Technically, these are just pickup games, but they have been happening weekly since the early 1980s. The players go to the trouble of hiring a referee and battle full tilt (think slide tackles and heels-over-head bicycle kicks) for an hour and a half. Many of them were high-school and collegiate stars, decades ago. “One guy had a hip replacement,” Bellizzi, a former soccer captain at Queens College, says. “He was out for a year, then he came back.”

Advil, hot tubs and surgery keep most of the Old Timers going, but Bellizzi has ventured further. Two summers ago he became a patient of Dr. Florence Comite, a Manhattan endocrinologist affiliated with Cenegenics Medical Institute. Cenegenics, a privately held company based in Las Vegas, claims to have 10,000 patients and annual revenue of $50 million, making it the country’s foremost purveyor of so-called age-management medicine.

I certainly don’t endorse what the article’s subject is doing to keep his body young (it seems quite dangerous and untested), but I did find it amusing that he loves soccer so much that he will spend tens of thousands of dollars just to improve his performance in pickup games.  Those of us who creak and groan our way through our weekly pickup games (at TEDS it’s Friday morning at 8am every week, rain or sun) can only dream of such enhancement.  Our wives can celebrate that no such improvement will happen.

Here’s another article about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and how he plays pickup ball (and here’s one I’ve linked to before).  I have some significant ideological differences with Duncan and other current members of the Administration, but I have to say, the amount of pickup basketball Obama, Duncan and others play is positively inspiring (to men–not necessarily to long-suffering wives!).

(Image: Henry Leutwyler for The New York Times)

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  • viaemmaus


    That is an interesting sociological piece… I think it simultaneously has value for recognizing the willingness to do anything to escape death (I am thinking here in part of Bill McKibben’s book Enough and his section on age-enhancing procedures) and the insatiable longing for life for eternal life.

    “God has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecc 3:11), and sadly these aging men look to prolonging their earthly lives rather than promise of the resurrection and the New Heavens and New Earth.

    Makes you wonder too about Christian eschatological views that ignore the physicality of heaven, and the glories of enjoying food and fellowship with the King, perhaps even on the Court of Courts. How many Christians can resonate with these old timers more than the apostle Paul, who said that his life is poured our and that to die is gain??



  • owenstrachan

    Great words, Dave. I need to read that book. I’ve heard good things.