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A League of Their Own

These ladies are fit as a fiddle and looking to score


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A typical group of women in their 80s might spend an afternoon playing cards or attending a matinee. The ladies of the Splash basketball team spend their days attempting to perfect their jump shot.

Splash is the 80-and-older team of San Diego’s Senior Women’s Basketball Association, a league of 125 players ranging from 50-86 years old. They meet several times a week at the YMCA in Mission Valley for basketball practice, safety trainings, and games with other seniors. Splash plays against younger senior teams in San Diego and travels to compete against other octogenarians.

“When you have the athletic gene, you want to play sports as long as you are able,” says 65-year-old Susanne L. Carvalho, director of the league. She played in high school and college, but stopped afterwards because there were no more opportunities to play. But in 2004, she spotted a group of senior women shooting hoops at the Y. “Someone saw me looking through the glass window and motioned for me to come in,” she recalls. After that game, she was hooked. 

Most women who compete in the senior league played basketball in their youth. Others are dribbling the ball for the first time. The league offers skills training workshops that also teach injury prevention techniques for senior athletes. Still, accidents happen. One player broke her shoulder during a game. “There were seven retired Navy nurses on the court,” says Carvalho, so she received immediate medical care. League officials are trained in CPR, and heart paddles are on site.

Eighty-four-year-old Fran Styles says she’s had a few falls and scrapes, but nothing serious. The retired physical education teacher is not only active on the Splash basketball team, but she competes at national and state senior games. In fact, she’s the Michael Phelps of the elder set. “At nationals I won gold in basketball, the long jump, triple jump, and 200 yard dash. I got the silver in the 100 yard. At state, I won three gold medals for track events and two silver.” Donning her 11 medals, she smiles proudly. “Now I’m so weighed down, I couldn’t run anywhere.” But she could probably dribble.

Local Ranger & TV Host

When you host a fishing show, of course, you see a lot of fish, but leprechauns?

It’s part of the job for Conway Bowman, a ranger at Lake Hodges who also hosts Fly Fishing The World, a weekly show on the Sportsman Channel. “We go to Australia, Thailand, or Iceland during peak season,” said Bowman. “If they aren’t biting, we focus on other things.” Like leprechauns, for instance? “Yeah, I saw one when we went to Beaver Island, Michigan, which was settled by the Irish 150 years ago,” Bowman said. “This little guy dressed up like a leprechaun and showed up wherever we were.” So how does a park ranger get his own show? In 2002, Men’s Journal included him in a story on fly fishing for mako sharks, and ESPN came calling. Soon after, he began hosting In Search Of Flywater. Since then, he has been adding edginess to the very puritan sport of fly fishing. “There’s a lot of beeping on the show—but that’s what happens when you fail to catch a fish.”
// David Moye

By the Numbers

Papa Doug Manchester’s back in everyone’s business as the new owner of The Union-Tribune

11: Number of golf, beach, tennis, or yacht clubs of which Manchester has been a member

125: Thousands of dollars he donated to Prop 8 in support of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, prompting a boycott at the Manchester Grand Hyatt

 532: Words The New York Times wrote about the sale in its business section, followed by one correction published online due to outdated information on Manchester’s own Web site

 04: Number of Papas (okay, one is a pizza) we think are more famous than Papa Doug: Papa Smurf, Papa Johns, Big Poppa (Notorious B.I.G), and Papa Roach

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