Keeping Handball Live at Flamingo Park

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Nestled in the heart of South Beach, Flamingo Park has been a South Florida baller’s paradise since the 1970s. Half a mile from the Miami Beach party venue, the quiet handball courts in this has seen the presence of world champions and is home to a consistent group of players, most of whom are between the ages of 60 and 80. Fifty years of playing have beaten the pictures. The once vibrant pastel-colored walls of the courts are now painted with a new coat of white paint. But you’re still likely to find nimble workgroups and trash talkers like in years past.

Besides the typical jokes and arguments about the score, the conversations often revolve around health – both physical and game health. Hand surgeries, knee problems, bypass surgery, and car accidents are all fair game to talk about trash (and excuses). There is an endearing camaraderie within the group that keeps everyone coming back.

The game has helped existing crews despite their age, but some of them fear the lack of younger faces will eventually catch on to the sport. The health concerns of four-wall handball seem to have been around for as long as Flamingo Park’s old courts, but the question still remains: Can the sport survive if only the occasional occasional crash New entrants to the competition will need younger players to retain. game alive? For now, a group of elderly ambassadors will carry the torch.

Krowitz, 69, was born in the Bronx. After growing up in Miami Beach, he started playing handball there after quitting his job as a lifeguard at the age of 54. While considering himself a professional handball player, Krowitz also participated in tournaments. other sports, including cycling, running, swimming, tango dancing and dancing. . He has been practicing martial arts for 55 years.

“I play handball because I like to challenge myself,” he said. “When I first started dancing tango, it took me six months just to become a beginner. I can’t hear the beat, and that’s what I like. I love being challenged. I need to improve constantly.”

Antonio “Tony” Gonzalez, 61, was born in the South Bronx and has been playing handball for nearly 50 years. An ugly playboy and unafraid to talk trash, Gonzalez grew up playing on the courts of Jackson Avenue, which was famous for gambling in the 1970s. Games are often played for small amounts of cash, helping Gonzalez, who was 14 at the time, made it even more difficult.

“I know men in New York who died in court,” he said. “If your life always revolves around handball, then to me, there is no better way to hang out with your best friends playing the game you love.”

O’Rourke, 61, is one of the sportier and better players at Flamingo Park. Born in Killarney, Ireland, O’Rourke’s service movement is known to other players as the “Irish Whip.” He has played at Flamingo Park since 1996, and he has also played both recreationally and competitively in places like Brazil, Germany and Ireland.

“When we were here during the renovation, you never know how many people will show up or if you can get a game,” he said. “But I can see these young people coming in over the past two weeks as the single-walled courtyards open, and it really looks like these renovations could bring the park to life again.”

Fernandez, 83, is another New Yorker who found a home in Florida. Nicknamed “Chico,” Fernandez started playing the game in 1962 and made his way to Flamingo Park in 1967. He was dealing with two replaced knees and an injured rotator cuff, but he chooses to let his game adapt to his body rather than take time off.

“I do everything to adapt my game when I’m injured so I don’t get hurt a lot on the court, like adjusting my shot,” he said. “I played through it, mainly because I knew I would feel better after the game. Especially when I win.”

Tauber, 86, started playing handball in 1954 while attending the University of Michigan. A Detroit native, Tauber built a custom handball field in the middle of his home in Michigan – against his wife’s wishes. As a business architect, Tauber has designed a number of options, including a complete layout with soundproof walls. Tauber has recently started playing pickle ball in search of even age competition.

“I think part of my longevity is down to the game,” he said. “I think the opportunity to play at a constant pace after all these years has made a difference in my health and my ability to function – both from a physical and mental standpoint.”

Gerson, 67, grew up watching his father play handball on Coney Island and pursued the sport as a teenager. Hailing from Brooklyn, Gerson has been active throughout his life with activities such as cycling, diving, gymnastics, running and swimming. He’s caught up with swimming a mile a day, a habit built during his 50-year career as a lifeguard. Gerson plays handball during the week while on a lunch break at the pool where he works (spends 60 minutes on handball and doesn’t eat lunch). Despite hip replacements and other minor aches and pains, Gerson hopes to eventually complete an Iron Man triathlon.

“Playing handball is hard on your body,” he said. “Then you feel tired as if you were in a boxing match. People don’t go out much in the summer because the room temperature is over 100 degrees. You’re drenched in sweat and you can lose 3-4 pounds of water in a game. I love it.” Keeping Handball Live at Flamingo Park

Fry Electronics Team

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