When an invitation came to play on an alumni basketball team against the team of my alma mater, John Carroll University, it stirred old and pleasant memories.
The last time I set foot on that court was the final home game of 1962, my senior year. We were playing Loyola of Chicago, the year before Loyola was to win the national championship.
Loyola's record was something like 24 and 3. Ours was 8 and 9. We were at least 20-point underdogs. A capacity crowd came to see what a real basketball team looked like.
Loyola was overconfident, which worked to our advantage. We took an early lead and held on tenaciously. Into the second half, we were still a basket or two ahead. The crowd that had come anticipating a slaughter was on its feet praying for a miracle as we matched Loyola basket for basket down the stretch.
It came down to one shot in the final seconds. Losing by a point, we got the ball to our best shooter, who let it fly from 12 feet away. The ball hit the rim, teetered, then fell off as the buzzer sounded, ending the game.
We had lost, but the crowd stayed on its feet cheering as if we had won. Some fans came on the court and lifted our players on their shoulders.
It is a story I have told and retold over the years. At the beginning of every basketball season, my son, now 12, says, "Tell me about the time you almost beat Loyola."
The memory was as fresh as yesterday as I headed over to the Y at noon one day to start getting in shape for the alumni game.
I will be 40 in a couple of years, and I've noticed my body no longer can make certain moves as fluidly as my mind remembers them. Still, it was not until the Celtics' Hondo Havlicek, a contemporary, retired last year that I began to feel... well... my age.
At the Y there was only one other player warming up -- a girl, of all things. Her name, I was to learn, was Katy.
When I was a player, girls cheered during the games, then waited outside the locker room afterward to celebrate or commiserate with their heroes. Tomboys played something called girls' basketball. In those days, if you said a girl had good legs, it had nothing to do with her leaping ability.
I sized up Katy as blonde, about 5-foot-11, with good legs, who moved well to her left -- for a girl.
"Wanna play one-on-one?" I asked.
"Okay," she said.
Magnanimously, I let her take the ball out.
She faked left, dribbled right, jumped, shot -- swish!
"Lucky," I grumbled.
She did it again.
I dug in on defense.
She faked a jump shot. I went up. She dribbled past me and scored.
It was 6 to 0 before I got the ball. I was panting. Katy was cool and unruffled.
Half a dozen of the lunch-hour regulars had gathered on the sidelines, watching us instead of warming up. I heard some snickering.
I had narrowed the gap to 8 to 3 and was beginning to find the old touch when somebody said, "Let's choose up a game."
Katy, who, it turned out, is a starter on the University of Southern California women's team and is on a student internship here, was the first one chosen. I was not picked until the fourth round.
At the dinner table the other night, when my son said, "Tell us about the time you almost beat Loyola," my 10-year-old daughter piped up -- to my surprise -- "No, no, daddy, tell us about the time you almost beat Katy."
I had sworn my wife to secrecy about this, but you know women.