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Creaking up and down the court

This essay originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on October 2, 2013

I started playing basketball when I was 11-years-old. That’s more than half a century ago.

I still play, twice a week, but, more and more, there are times, when I stink to high heaven. My hook shot won’t fall. The guy I’m guarding gets around me with ease. I’m unable to dribble without getting the ball stolen out from under me.

George, a friend from high school and a teammate on the basketball team, died in August out in Seattle where he’d long lived. George had had hip problems in recent years, but, from what I knew, his health was fine. Then — bang! — he was felled by a cerebral hemorrhage.

I didn’t learn of George’s death until a month after it happened, and I had a particularly frustrating time on the court that night. I’d hoped that basketball would clear my head. Instead, I ran around the court, clumsily trying to do too much. This made my game even worse than it usually is.

George and I at a 2010 reunion at St. Jude
George and I at a 2010 reunion at St. Jude

Although George and I had email conversations every couple months or so, we last saw each other in 2010 when we spent some time on the basketball court where the younger us used to play.

It was a reunion of guys who had attended St. Jude Seminary, a high school outside of Momence, Il. We were all studying then to be priests with the Claretian religious order. A couple years after our class graduated in 1967, the Claretians eliminated the high school seminary, and the site became Good Shepherd Manor, a home for adult men with disabilities.

The sixties, a time of upheaval inside and outside the Catholic church, was not a good time to be in the seminary. About half of the Claretians in the eastern province, which included St. Jude, left the priesthood during that era. I can think of no one who became a priest out of the maybe 200 guys who were at the school during the four years George and I were there.

Actually, George left in the middle of senior year. I stuck it out for a total of nine years of schooling, but bailed out — that celibacy thing, you know — still four years short of ordination.

George and I at my graduation from St. Jude in 1967
George and I at my graduation from St. Jude in 1967

George had a nimble, inquisitive mind. A year ago, when I sent him a copy of an essay I had in the Tribune ( on watching little kids skip and twirl, he responded:

“It reminded me of the time in 1972 at The Basic School when I tried to convince a platoon of Marine second lieutenants to skip when we were running in formation. It seemed to me to be a perfect moment for something completely incongruous. I only got about half the platoon to join me.”

That was the kind of guy George was, trying to get a bunch of Marine officers to skip — and half succeeding.

We enjoyed the incongruous, George and I. I think George felt, as I do, that you get closer to the heart of life when you look at or engage in things that are odd or unbecoming or inappropriate. After all, those Marine officers in 1972 were all, like George, about 22 years old — not far removed from childhood when they would have skipped just because it was fun.

Maybe that’s why I keep going back onto the basketball court every Sunday and Monday. It’s certainly incongruous for someone my age to be dragging his carcass up and down the floor against guys who are 20 or 30 or even 40 years younger.

I’d like to say it keeps me feeling young. But it doesn’t.

It’s a constant reminder of the toll that age has taken, and will continue to take. I know how I used to fly down court on a fast break, and leap high for a rebound. I know how I had energy to burn, how I could pivot with ease and slash through the lane.

No more. I’ve had one knee replacement, and another is scheduled in a few months. I won’t list the many other ways in which my body has become ever more creaky.

Still, when I’m in a game, no matter how decrepit I feel, there’s always a chance to make a sharp pass or a jump shot from the corner or a block or a steal. I can’t do any of those things as often or with as much skill as I once could.

Yet, there are moments when I do something right on the court, and that’s a deeply satisfying feeling. Maybe more satisfying for me now than it was back then when I was younger.

Let me tell you, though.

I miss that younger me.

Patrick T. Reardon, the author of four books, once scored 33 points in a game for the St. Jude Black Knights.


  • James Martin
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Just wanted to say hi Pat. You were my sponsor at St Jude back in 1965 when I entered as a sophomore. Reading about St Jude brings back a lot of great memories. Was a nice article you wrote. Take care and God Bless you and your family.


    • Post Author
      Patrick T. Reardon
      Posted February 10, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Thanks, Jim. There was a reunion a couple years ago at St. Jude. Now that you’ll be in Green Bay, maybe you can get to the next one. Pat

  • Dennis Dituri
    Posted August 26, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Lovely memories of both of u guys. I’m Dennis Dituri. And it was great playing baseball varsity,,I was selected as a freshman to play and everyone treat me beautiful. Ty. D

  • John Price
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Pat I left my junior year because I got sick with ulcerative colitis (would have been ‘66 I believe). I remember you all and it was the happiest time of my life up to that point. Glad you are still creaking!

    John Price

  • John Price
    Posted September 16, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    Pat I left my junior year because I got sick with ulcerative colitis (would have been ‘66 I believe). I remember you all and it was the happiest time of my life up to that point. Glad you are still creaking!

    John Price

  • Ed Pociejewski
    Posted April 20, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    Pat, just came across your article for the Tribune. Your reference to the death of George, St. Jude Seminary, and how you have continued to play the game you love is a reminder that life is short and that you have to endeavor to the end. Pat Dolan did become a diocesan priest and served as a military chaplain.

    • Post Author
      Patrick T Reardon
      Posted April 20, 2020 at 9:47 pm

      Thanks, Ed. Yeah, I knew Pat had become a priest. Not sure why I didn’t mention that more clearly in the piece…that he had to go elsewhere to become a priest. We had a reunion of about eight guys in our class three years ago, and he was there. He seemed like a very fine priest. Pat

  • Patty Katity
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 2:41 am

    Do you recognize the name Richard (Rick) Krieman, born November 14, 1945 and was from Evanston,

  • Sal Alaniz
    Posted March 29, 2023 at 7:02 am

    I did not know of George’s passing. He was close to my parents and would vist or speak with them often. When we lived on Laramie Street in Chicago. My younger brother Rich continues to be a lawyer in Seattle. We spoke of that once.
    Rose and I reside in Iowa. Quite awhile now
    Mom and dad have passed, as my 9 years younger brother Joe. I continue my self employment and enjoy our life here.
    Have been in sort of a “memory” lane. Taking a trip with Rose to Momence late spring. I called in advance. Blessings –

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