BILLINGS – Walk into the Billings Athletic Club racquetball courts on any given day, and you’ll likely find two things – Jim Brown and Frank Zweifel.
“I’m gonna say probably about 45 years ago,” Zweifel said when asked how long he’d been playing the sport.
That was in Bozeman. Jim started the year the BAC opened, back in 1979. And when Frank moved to Billings shortly after, the rest has been history.
“We make fun of each other about our age,” said Brown. “I ask him if he needs help getting dressed. Frank and I have age in common. We enjoy each other’s company.”
“I like it for the companionship that you gain from playing with different players,” said Zweifel. “I like the competition, and it keeps you in shape.”
That last part is what hooked Jim – after everything else failed.
“I’m not crazy about exercise,” Brown said matter-of-factly, “but racquetball is a fun way to get it. I remember when I first started I hated giving up time to come out here to get away from what I did for a living. And then once I got addicted, I was angry if I couldn’t come, because it made me feel so much better.”
That’s how Jim is still going strong at the age of 79 and a half, as he’ll tell you. Of course, there have been a few bumps and bruises along the way.
“I was in a tournament, and I was always told to watch over your shoulder as you serve to watch where the ball’s gonna go,” said Zweifel, “and I looked back there and a guy hit it really hard. I mean he hit it really hard. Hit me right in the eye and knocked me down, so that was kind of a teacher.”
“40 years of racquetball has caused me to have one shoulder re-done from playing too often, too hard,” admitted Brown. “But it’s all worth it.”
MTN found out about Jim and Frank from other BAC players who consider the pair an inspiration. Of course, when Brown heard that, he couldn’t help get one last shot in.
“Actually, Frank is three years older than I am, so if anybody’s an inspiration, he’s one to me,” laughed Brown.
“Actually it’s very kind of them, because once upon a time, I could have played with them. Now, I don’t belong on the same court with them.”
Don’t let him fool you. They still very much do.