(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
Old men rejoice! One of our kind performed an amazing athletic feat this past weekend, so it’s time to throw down that walker, put in those false teeth and put your game face on. We purveyors of senility are serving notice to the youngsters that we are going to be here a little bit longer.
The granddad I’m referring to who cut his way through a field of snot-nosed kids is none other than that relic from the past, Andre Agassi. At the creaky old age of 35, Agassi became the oldest Grand Slam finalist in the last 31 years when he beat up a 22-year-old to qualify for the finals of the U.S. Open on Saturday.
Unfortunately, Agassi forgot his Geritol and was beaten by 25-year-old Roger Federer in the championship Sunday. Federer better enjoy the ride now, because it’s only 10 years until he too will be sent out to pasture.
Coincidentally, I’m 35 also, and will be moving into Beverly Healthcare at the end of the year. I’ve been following Agassi since way back in the 1990s, when we both had ridiculous heads of hair (before they ungraciously fell out and left us both looking like Mr. Clean) and wore garish, baggy clothing that cost way too much money.
I admired Agassi back then because he was unconventional, had long hair, listened to Slaughter, and drove all the French girls crazy. (I always got a kick out of watching the French Open and hearing all the mademoiselles scream “Aga See! Aga See!”)
Now I admire Andre because he’s bald, married and has a kid; just like me. But come on, we’re not old! Can’t we raise the old man athlete age by 10 years? After all, I’ve heard that 40 is the new 30 anyway.
With today’s training and focus on nutrition, there are plenty of athletes who are competing at a high level after the age of 30, and on into their 40’s. I mean, has anyone seen Roger Clemens lately? He’s probably throwing better now than he ever has.
Personally, I don’t feel old. Except when I get up or try to play a particularly fast song on the drums, or throw a football, or shoot a basketball, or try to keep up with my eight-year-old.
But that’s because all I do is sit around and eat cheese tots all day and forget to exercise. Plus, I hurt my shoulder a couple of years ago and decided to let it heal by not using it.
Now I will admit that there is something to the cliché ‘If you don’t use it you lose it’.
After I hit 30 and stopped exercising, my metabolism slowed down. Now I can still rock my drum kit, shoot the J, or run a fly pattern; it just takes a lot of stretching and a little bit more time to warm up.
Professional athletes, however, don’t have that problem. During Agassi’s run all I kept hearing about is how old we are. I think the focus should be on how his talent has kept him in the game and at the top, for 15 plus years.
Maybe in 10 years 35 won’t be considered old anymore. But by that time, I’ll be 45, toothless, blind, and confined to my hospital bed.
So, let’s hope Andre will still be in there battling the kiddies, giving the rest of us senior citizens a reason to keep believing we were once relevant.