April 11, 2009
But to them, it’s so much more. It’s the chance to start your day with sweat on your forehead and leave with a smile on your face.
More than 30 years ago, four Rockland teachers started playing two-on-two basketball in the middle school gym. As more guys found out about it, the group grew and got a name – the Sunrise Hoops Society.
The only founder still playing is retired math teacher Rick Fredericks, 61, who drives from Marshfield each week.
While the players have changed, the atmosphere has not.
“It’s the most fun that I have, but it’s always been a lot of fun,” Fredericks said. “That part’s stayed the same.”
The joking around is the reason the guys keep coming, former player and Rockland teacher Ken Owen said. “It’s a little more than just a bunch of guys playing basketball.”
Howie Reske, 50, drove from his Duxbury home on Wednesday to play just one game before going to work.
“We’re slower than we used to be, but there are some days you go there, and it’s just like you were in high school,” Reske said.
Many of the guys faced off as teenagers on the same court, playing for various high schools. Bob Murphy, 51, played for Whitman-Hanson.
“They can still beat me up,” he said.
No formal records are kept but legends live on, like the “greatest play in morning basketball history” when 5-foot-5-inch Murphy stuffed 6-foot-6-inch Jeff Ross, who maintains he was fouled.
“We keep track in our minds,” said Bob Corcoran, 51. “It gets distorted.”
Most agree it’s a better workout than just heading to the gym. The treadmill isn’t going to bust your chops for not getting out of bed though.
Reske said he calls the guys’ wives if they don’t show up.
But the fun doesn’t last forever. Several years ago, Owen had to give up playing when his knees gave out.
When players “retire” from morning basketball, there’s no grand goodbye as you fade off into the sunrise.
“You get ridiculed,” Owen said. “That’s your send-off.”
But for the guys playing now, despite the aches and pains, the retirement days seem distant.
“My biggest fear is what I’m going to do when it’s all over,” Reske said. “Playing basketball is what it started as, and then it became part of our lives.”