When the 19th-century German writer and philosopher Goethe said, "A useless life is an early death", he couldn't have known that in 2010 a bunch of sweaty older gentlemen would prove him correct by getting up at the crack of dawn every day and hustling over to the Glendale YMCA for two hours of vigorous basketball.
If this alone doesn't seem hard, you should meet team ace Bill Baugh, who turned 70 last week. He's had 14 operations, including replacement of his left knee—twice—and he's on his fourth right hip.
"I wore out the other three," said Baugh, whose body is as trim as a 25-year-old. Even more incredible is that barely a bead of sweat is dripping off him after three pickup games.
If something should happen, there are several doctors available—right on the court. Physicians from Glendale Adventist and Glendale Memorial teamed up with some of their patients to make the games more interesting, and to intervene medically if needed. They've been playing for years, and have never needed their doctor bags.
"Everyone needs to find something they love, and Bill found his love in basketball," said longtime friend and sports, family and geriatric medicine specialist Jack Yu. "We all need to get exercise, and keep doing it despite our age. This keeps him active, keeps his heart going, his muscles going—that's what he needs."
The team's unofficial psychologist is Douglas Nies. He's never had to drag out his couch. Instead, Nies' jump shot is in big demand.
"We take out a lot of our frustration on the court," Nies said. "Sometimes there's yelling and screaming, but we're friends off the court. We leave it here. When I'm on the court, I'm not thinking about anything clinical, I'm just playing with my buddies. One day I'm playing with Billy, next day I'm playing against him."
On Friday morning, the players were looking forward to working off their post-practice appetites by celebrating Bill's 70th with Lebanese cuisine at the Phoenicia Restaurant, owned by team member Ara Kalfayan.
Kalfayan agrees with his basketball buddies that Baugh is the inspiration that has kept the scrimmages going for so many years.
"He slows us down sometimes because of medical problems, but without him, it's difficult (to get motivated)," he said. "It's one big family—Billy and all the guys—when they come here in the morning, we know they're feeling well."
Baugh credits his strong Christian faith and his vigorous exercise routine with being able to dribble competitively with guys half his age.
"Exercise is just as important as taking medication. It's at the top of the list," he said.
He's also a working hobbyist, making clocks and other collectibles in his home workshop. But he says it's the daily workout, inspired by the word of God, that's kept him strong through six decades, going on seven.
"Without it, I don't think I'd be alive today," he said.