In an effort to stay active and healthy, within the past year or so I started going to the gym twice a week and playing basketball with a group of guys. Roughly the same group of men get together at the same time of day for some good old fashioned exercise and competition as a welcome break from the workday.
I played basketball from the time I was ten years old right on up through college, but being the shy kid I was at the time, never would have thought to start up a conversation with someone I didn’t know outside of the gym.
Recently while I was playing, just before a game began, I noticed one of the guys on my team was wearing a Detroit Lions t-shirt. Being a long-suffering Lions fan from Michigan myself (and guessing that no one outside of Michigan would wear a Lions shirt), I asked him if he was from Detroit. He said yes. I told him the city where I grew up. Then he mentioned that he played basketball at Catholic Central High School. Well, guess what? That’s my high school!
I found out that he graduated a couple years before my brother, and I told him that I’d probably seen him play while he was there. We talked about the teachers we knew and threw names back and forth, and then we went out and won five games in a row as teammates before calling it a day.
This fellow is, by the way, probably the best player at our gym on any given day. I have played against him many times, but never spoke to him off the court. Who knew?
Just last week I struck up a conversation with another player who mentioned that he spent a significant number of years in the military, most of that time involved in combat situations in countries including Somalia and Cambodia. I had an endless fountain of questions for him and I learned a lot about war, politics, the media… and human beings.