COMMUNITY: 'Old Farts' still have game

Dyersville league brings back basketball dreams

JR Ogden
Published: February 16 2014 | 5:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:42 am in

Editor’s note: Mark Singsank is a native of Dyersville, a graduate of Beckman High School and the University of Iowa. He is an associate director for development at Divine Word College in Epworth. Since learning the game in sixth grade, basketball has been his favorite recreational activity.

By Mark Singsank, community contributor

DYERSVILLE — Breakaway Jordanesque tomahawk dunks from the free throw line. Nope.

Step-back 3-pointers from well beyond the arc. Not here.

A pick-and-roll executed to perfection for an easy layup, Maybe.

In the Dyersville “Old Farts Basketball League” you are more likely to see a 12-foot set shot or a hard foul on that previously mentioned layup. But at least the guys who play every Tuesday night from 6 to 7 in the St. Francis Xavier Elementary School gym are getting some good exercise and keeping their basketball “skills” sharp.

Since 1972 an ever-changing cadre of men — past their basketball prime and mostly over 50 years old — get together to relive their glory days and work on staying at least a little bit fit.

Mind you, we just play at one basket, no fast breaks here.

There are no set teams, so whoever shows up, which can be from 6 to 14 guys, is split as evenly as possible. It’s always good to have an odd number because a sub is usually welcomed.

We play until one team scores 10 baskets — no 3-pointers, no free throws — but a team has to win by two baskets, so some games take a little longer than some of the guys prefer. We are usually able to get in three to four games each night.

When current “commissioner” Ted Deacon and a friend, retired Dyersville attorney Ken Moss, felt they needed to do something to get some regular exercise, they decided to start the weekly basketball gathering for the “old guys.” Moss retired from regular participation a few years ago, but Deacon’s not ready for that yet.

“We started when I was 30, I have been playing ever since and still look forward to Tuesday nights,” said Deacon, a teacher and assistant varsity basketball coach at Beckman High School during the school’s first six years (1966-72). “I plan to play as long as I can.

Even though he is the oldest regular, the 72-year-old Deacon remains one of the best pure shooters among the group and always is working on getting his shot right.

Each year the group adds new players when others decide they just can’t do it anymore. I convinced two of my high school friends to play this year. At 52, we are usually the youngest players, except over Christmas vacation when some of the guys’ sons are home.

Our “league” begins after golf season and ends before golf season. We have to keep our priorities in order you know. Whoever plans to play regularly throws in $40 to help pay for gym rental and whatever is left over is used for pizza and beer at the English Pub after our last night.

Of course some of the guys visit there each week.

Monty Branstetter, 64, began playing 24 years ago.

“When I started no one under 40 was allowed to play,” he said. “I continue to play each week because I love the game and I like the exercise.”

As mentioned, you won’t find any dunks or long range 3-point baskets in the Dyersville “Old Farts Basketball League,” just a bunch of guys having fun and trying to get a little exercise.

A great way to spend an hour on a cold winter night, I encourage everyone to give it a try in your own community.

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