Fred Fidler sat quietly on the bleachers of the Wilson Center YMCA, resting from the basketball games he plays daily at 6 a.m. before going to work.
The sweaty players around him tease Fidler about his game, then admit he's their motivation.
That's because Fidler, a ceramics engineer at Thermal Ceramics, is 62 years old.
"I want to be like Fred when I'm that age," said the Rev. Otis Moss, 33, who said he and friend the Rev. Martris Mims, 33, are in awe watching Fidler play each morning.
"He's in great shape," Mims said. "He comes every day and plays - hard!"
Fidler, of Evans, plays full and half court, running all over the court, snatching rebounds, guarding, blocking and taking jump shots and layups.
Fred Fidler, 62, plays basketball at the Wilson Center YMCA each morning beginning at 6 o'clock.
Photo by C. Samanta McKevie
"I was amazed. I didn't know he was that old. His skill and his ability to get up and down the court is phenomenal," said Keenan Johnson, 26.
"The youngest player out here is 18, so that's a 44-year spread," Fidler said.
The wide age span is why he's been playing at 6 a.m. at the Y for almost 12 years.
"At that time, it's not dominated by 18-year-olds," Fidler said.
"I can't play with 18- and 20-year-olds. They can get me. But I can hang with the 30-somethings."
"I've never been normal," he said. "I have an unusual job, an unusual hobby for my age. Being normal is not fun."
Being physically fit doesn't hurt, but it's not because of some strict diet. Fidler said he eats a variety of things.
"I eat enough of the good and work off enough of the bad," he said.
Fidler doesn't attribute his athletic abilities to his diet. He said not having had any major injuries and having a place to play and an understanding family have been factors.
He said he stopped playing for a year and a half in his early 30s, but the mere thought of how painful it felt to start back was enough to keep him from stopping again.
And though the younger guys think he's a superb player, he said he's not always convinced these days. He said that somewhere between 46 and 62, his body slowed down.
"It's a bittersweet, but frustrating experience because you can't do things you used to do," Fidler said.
"Your hands don't always do what you tell them, shots you used to be able to take, now the hole closes before you can get to it," he said.
But, Fidler said, old age has its advantages when new, youthful players underestimate him and he's able to make some commendable plays.
"Sometimes I get a break from younger guys who are overconfident about playing an old guy," he said.
But he's earned respect from the players. When they are picking their teams, Fidler is always one of the first chosen. It's this teamwork and camaraderie that he loves.
He said football is his favorite sport, and when he played high-school football, his coach made him run track, which didn't have the teamwork qualities he treasures.
"It's just running. The others are games. I like games," Fidler said.
"I don't know much about all these guys here, where they work, what they do, or their last names," he said.
"But when we're out there on that court, we all have one thing in common, and that's the great thing about sports."
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