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Grannies Make Basketball Their Own And ‘Don’t Feel Silly’ About It

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Basketball is the passion for a group of women in Faribault, but it might not exactly be the game you know.

On a snowy Monday night, the community center in Faribault was a flurry of activity. It’s where the women worked on their game.

Sixty-five-year-old Cheryl Sterling says their game is called granny basketball.

The game looks a bit like the six-on-six basketball Iowa high school girls teams played until the early 1990s. The rules are unique.

“No jumping or running,” Sterling said. “It really turns to be pretty athletic game too, because it’s a lot of passing.”

Sixty-seven-year-old Judy Lee says the court is divided into three parts, and players have to stay in their designated sections of the court. Lee also said the game’s quarters are 8 minutes long and that when “granny falls down,” the clock stops.

The skillsets of the women — all over 50-years-old — range from rookies to former division-one players who started for the Gophers.

“We have a lot of people that haven’t played basketball before,” Sterling said. “But we figure if you can just dribble or pass, you’re doing fine.”

Kathleen Putrah, 70, said she probably brings the least talent and the most age to the group, but she still makes her presence felt on the court.

“I’m not the best shooter in the world,” Putrah said. “But I’m tall, and I contribute that to the game.”

Elsie Slinger, 53, is one of the team’s hotshots. She says she’s a pretty physical player who sometimes gets in trouble with the other players.

“Every once in a while I catch myself jumping, or people will get after me because [I’m] running,” she said. “And I’m like no; that’s because I have long legs, and I’m hurrying.”

The team – which is named the Hotshots — recently hit the road for a game in nearby Wanamingo, which is home to the only other Minnesota granny team. I went along for the pre-game ride.

Besides the rules, the team’s uniforms are definitely old school.

“We play in bloomers,” Putrah said. “We can’t have any skin showing, so we have long socks that come above the knees and bloomers, a white shirt with a sailor-type tie with our number on it.”

Sometimes with their socks, the grannies make small fashion statements.

In the game I watched, the gym was filled with family and friends that support the women and their hoop dreams. One woman’s daughter, who was in the stands, said she was proud of her mom.

“She’s young and youthful and has lots of energy,” the woman said.

In fact, the grannies take the game pretty seriously, according to their spouses.

“The honest truth, about anytime she goes into a game, she’s edgy,” one husband said. “This is serious stuff. She’s here to play her best, she isn’t fooling around, she doesn’t want to look like anybody’s idiot.”

The competitiveness comes out on the court even if they’re game isn’t what it used to be.

“The ladies don’t give you a break no matter how old they are,” Slinger said. “They go after the ball, shoot the ball; they take it seriously, just like anybody else who played the game.”

After the game was said and done, it was the Hotshots who beat the Bulldogs. But the scoreboard is but an afterthought, considering the roads the grannies have traveled.

“We don’t feel silly,” one granny said. “We feel like we’re sweating and having fun, meeting people — and that’s what it’s all about!”

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