Word on the Street

Ibuprofen formula (i’-byoo-pro’-fuhn for’-myoo-luh) noun. A simple formula used to determine how many Ibuprofen (or some other form of aspirin) someone should take prior to playing competitive pickup basketball. The formula is: [Number of Full Decades Lived] + 1. For example, a 27-year-old would take three Ibuprofen prior to playing pickup ball (two full decades lived + 1).

Usage example:Ever since I discovered the Ibuprofen formula, I always pop a few aspirin before my pickup league. It really helps.”

Word history: Back in the late 1980s, I remember watching a Boston Celtics highlight video in which Kevin McHale was relentlessly teasing Bill Walton. McHale joked that when Bill arrived at the Boston Garden for a game, the first thing he did was flag down a ball boy and order the kid to bring him eight aspirin and a Coke. “He needed, like, a whole bottle of painkillers before the game even started!” cracked McHale.

It’s obviously been a few years since I saw that video, and I was considerably younger, so my memory might be a little faulty as to the exact wording. But that exchange always stuck with me, and I often thought back to it and wondered why Walton would need to anesthetize himself BEFORE playing basketball. But now I get it.

Still, it wasn’t my idea to start downing Ibuprofen before playing. The Ibuprofen formula was the brainchild of Douglas, my pickup league’s resident old guy. Douglas’s in his 50s, but unlike most of the men I’ve known who played pickup into their fifth decade and beyond, he’s still really good. He’s automatic from 15 feet and he has this move – where he drives baseline, pivots under the basket and hits a reverse layup/scoop/hook/something-or-other – that’s nearly impossible to stop in single coverage. It’s funny, because he’s old, slow and not remotely athletic, and so newcomers to the league (especially the young jumping jacks) always think they’re going to stuff him with extreme prejudice. But Douglas is so wiley, and he executes that move with such an uncanny, machine-like precision, that it’s pretty rare when a defender is able to effectively challenge the shot. Douglas either hits it or he doesn’t, but the outcome usually has nothing to do with the defense.

Anyway, one day Douglas and I happened to be chatting on the sideline when the subject of his age came up (as it inevitably does). I asked him how he gets ready to play, because I’d never once seen him stretch or warm up in any way other than shooting around. Without the slightest hesitation, Douglas said: “I take about six Ibuprofen.” I must have given him a funny look, because he laughed and said, “I’ve been taking Ibuprofen before I play for years. I take it right before I get here, that way it kicks in about halfway through the first game, and then I’m not sore afterward. Well, not until the next morning, anyway.” I asked him why he takes so many. “Well, it’s a formula. I take one for each decade I’ve lived, and then I add one more. Started doing that in my 40s, and I’ve done it ever since. It works.”

I was curious, so before my next pickup game, I tried it. And you know, it really does work. Of course, I had some concern about taking too many pills. Douglas was obviously taking way more than the recommended dosage, and by using the Ibuprofen formula, I would be too. Was it dangerous? I went ahead and checked with a friend who’s a nurse. He – yes, he’s a murse – administers a LOT of Ibuprofen, and he told me that there was no threat of overdosing by taking a couple extra Ibuprofen. In fact, he said that people with larger-than-average body mass (I’m 6’6″ and 220 pounds) who participate in physically challenging activities (like baskeball or other amateur athletics) may actually require more than the recommended dosage.

So if you’re getting a little older and starting to feel the aches and pains of the pickup game, don’t do something stupid like “retire” (as a few of my friends did after turning 30). Try the Ibuprofin formula first. And if that doesn’t work, try some vagisil. (pussies)

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Labels: Kevin McHale / Bill Walton / Boston Celtics / Word on the Street

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