Granite State of Mind, #123: Great Bay Athletic Club, Newmarket
Updated: Feb 14, 2022
I've never been a fitness club guy (and I think the results speak for themselves). I spent my time at the then-new Hamel Rec Center at UNH, and I've dallied with gyms from Waco, TX to Tacoma, WA. It's really just not my scene. I'll sweat with a group if we're playing hoops or running for absurdly long distances, but when lifting my pitifully small weights I prefer solitude. In any event, my relationship with the GBAC has been a long one, and only at times has it included exercise.
My first memory of visiting the big old hangar on Exeter Road dates from June of 1993. Our EAHS class had our post-prom there, with a tropical Kokomo theme. From what I hear there were hot tub stories from some of my fellow graduates, but my enduring memory is a wee-hours sighting of a six-foot monkey on the basketball court. Am I right, Jen Strickland Cyr? Later in life I'd develop a more conventional relationship with the GBAC, playing racquetball there with Al and Jen, doing far too little exercise during my morning commute from Exeter to UNH, and playing basketball.
Basketball at Great Bay was a strange experience. The floor and the rims were both unforgiving, and the court was three-quarter at most. But I played a ton of 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 there with a lot of the same guys. There was a bull in the china shop dude named Cemal who had a bristly porn stache and the hoop game of a linebacker. There was a tournament there, and one year a gang of us entered and were assigned these orange shirts. Colin JT Woods, Al Pace, Terrence Baker, Andy Smith - who else did we have on that squad? We held our own, at least until Andy, our tower of power, broke his hand. I may or may not have gotten tossed from a game arguing with a comically bad official. And there may or may not have been words between some of us and a foul-begging porcelain doll from the blue team we nicknamed Mr. Glass. Ah, good times. If memory serves I missed our final playoff game while traveling, and the same bad referees took extreme license to help usher us our of the postseason. As TB put it so succinctly, "you can't just make shit up."
I haven't been there for a long time (for one thing, it's in NH and I'm not - not yet). I went more often when my friend John Terlizzi owned and operated it, and when it was conveniently located between home and work. Maybe I'll go again when we get back. After all, I've been playing a lot of hoops the last few years. Maybe I'm ready for Cemal.