Gordon Darrah's body tries to tell him he can't play basketball anymore, but his pride tells him he can. So -- two years after a heart attack -- the 76-year-old insurance salesman is competing in the National Senior Olympics.
"I'll show you the trophy when I get back," he says, sounding as confident as when he played on Baker High School's state championship team nearly 60 years ago.
Two years ago the Atlanta Classics finished third in the nation. Darrah was at home in Columbus rehabbing from his heart attack and 10 hours of surgery to repair it. Without him, teammates were on their way to the title game until former Georgia Tech All-American Roger Kaiser injured his knee.
They tip off today in the 75-and-over division and at a time when their peers only watch it on TV, they're in Minneapolis-St. Paul playing the game they love -- and taking massive doses of Aleve.
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Darrah and Kaiser met as college freshmen. Darrah was at Georgia and Kaiser -- a Hoosier by birth -- was a Yellow Jacket after turning down an offer to play at Indiana University.
And they're still competing.
"I'm scared to quit," Darrah said.
So is Kaiser, who won four national titles as head coach at West Georgia College and Life University. He coaches middle school basketball at Mt. Bethel Christian Academy in Cobb County. His office is in a gym, so even though the hop has left his jump shot, he shoots every day and can still score.
Darrah plays several nights a week, just like he did when he was one of Bubba Ball's stars at Baker. Heart trouble didn't stop Darrah, and Kaiser refuses to let two diagnoses of cancer, hip replacement, cataract procedures on both eyes and a knee operation put him on the bench.
The player-coach of the Classics is Paul Vickers, a football player at Georgia Tech. Before that he was on North Fulton High's 1953 state championship basketball team. He's pushing 80.
Rounding out the roster are Roy Roberts of Kentucky and Bill Ide of Washington & Lee. It's a 3-on-3, half-court game with a running clock, but Darrah said action never stops.
They want to win a national championship, but Vickers has three other goals. "Don't embarrass myself play good defense and don't get hurt."
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.