Random Thoughts – What is Old?

There are things that make us feel old and it varies from person to person, and most of the time they happen gradually. You’ll notice one here and one there and you just take note of them subconsciously. They only stand out to you when there is a rapid succession of these moments that jump up and slap you in the face. Well, this past couple of months has been one of those sequences for me personally. (Editor’s note: Yes, we here at RTI do realize that our principle columnist is not “old” by the vast majority of standards – though in the worlds of women’s gymnastics and women’s tennis he’d have both feet in his grave! – but, the focus of this is more about your childhood and your youth. Old in this case probably means, the death of your youth and the realization that you are in fact an adult heading toward your middle ages). Anyway, since I’ve recently gone through this phenomenon I thought I would share the “buckshot” of  folks that have me all shook up and feeling nostalgic at the same time:

This first event doesn’t really fit in the tight convergence of events but it was the event that at least put my radar in motion to start being aware of these things. The retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. in the summer of 2010 was the beginning of the alarm for me. Junior was my favorite baseball player beginning in 1989 and throughout the rest of his days. Now, since he became my favorite while I was still elementary school aged, it didn’t trip me up too badly. He was clearly enough older than me that I was conscious that the day was coming and was ready to celebrate it. That same year both Tom Glavine and John Smoltz also retired. They were two of the Braves’ aces through the 90’s and I actually still remember watching both of their Braves’ debuts in ’88 and ’89. But again, they were starting pitchers and unless they were the Ryan Express, I knew that they would be hanging it up and I was ok with that. So what started getting to me, you may ask? Well there has been a rapid succession of events in the past few months that have simply made me take notice:

Hines Ward: Sure, he may not be retired yet, but the Steelers just released him on exactly 10,000 catches and with almost as many yards as Hall of Famers Lynn Swann & John Stallworth COMBINED. Why would this make me feel old? Because Hines is the only person from Rex, GA (my hometown) to ever become famous. (Infamous from Rex…well that’s a slightly longer list…). Not only that, I remember being in middle school and watching him play in high school. (Tangent: something else that makes me feel old… I nearly added “watched him in person” to that previous sentence. Why? Because this year I was able to watch my alma mater play in the state championship online, so I have been conditioned to actually specify the “in person”. In person was the only way to watch ANY high school athletics back then!!) He was the quarterback for Forest Park High School and led them to a 28-7 over Morrow High School with a very impressive display. How can someone that I watched play in High School already be at the end of his days in the NFL and it not be due to injury? Oh… I’M OLD!

Jason Varitek: Oh, Captain my Captain. Being the dutiful fan of my father’s alma mater (THE Georgia Institute of Technology) Varitek came bursting onto my sports radar in the early 90’s when he, along with Nomar Garciaparra & Jay Payton, vaulted the status of Georgia Tech’s baseball program into the national consciousness. I vividly remember watching the College World Series championship game from Omaha in 1994 and seeing Varitek BLAST a home run halfway down the hill on the back side of Rosenblatt Stadium (Stupid Oklahoma ruined the fairy tale ending). In fact seeing ‘Tek and the boys in Omaha gave me positive feelings for the city that would later introduce me to my lovely bride! So as a sophomore in High School I had found a player in college (again not that much older than me) that I really wanted to follow and cheer for.  So I watched. I saw my adopted American League team at the time (Seattle Mariners) draft him and I had great hopes of seeing he and Griffey on the same field for years to come. Then came that fateful trade deadline when the Mariners unloaded he and Derek Lowe in an attempt at short-term gain. (My brother can attest to how mad I was when that news came across the wire).  So, all of that was said to establish that yet another one of my favorites who has had a long and productive career has reached the end. (By the way, do people really understand how good Varitek was? He’s the only person to ever play in the Little League World Series championship game, the College World Series championship game, the World Series, and the Olympics. But on top of that he also played in the High School State Championship [and they were voted the #1 team in the country that year], and the World Baseball Classic. And while we are piling on, he is the only catcher to ever catch 4 different no-hitters and everyone accepts that it should have been 5 if Curt Schilling hadn’t gotten stupid and shook off Varitek’s sign with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th of his no-hit bid).  Just a couple of weeks ago the Red Sox Captain called it a career. Yep…I’M OLD!

Peyton Manning: My mind is a weird place…I make no bones about that. Anyway, in my mind you should always have 1 team in each of the major college conferences that is the one you would prefer win it all if your team can’t. It just gives you more to cheer for in years when your team is less than stellar. (Say like if your team can only manage to score 36 points in an ACC tournament game. THIRTY-SIX!!!!!!!!!!!!!). But I digress. Being in the South, it was important for me to have an SEC school to cheer for, especially since the University of Georgia was the bane of my existence. I had a couple of friends growing up and in High School that were Tennessee fans, so they were the SEC school that I attached myself to. Well, who would come along and be the face of Tennessee? Pat Summit of course (still love her!), but other than her it was none other than Peyton Manning. I remember being in high school and being at my good friend Emily’s house with her whole family and vigorously cheering for Peyton to gut the dirty Bulldogs. (good times!). Peyton was always the regular looking guy who did things his way, and did them with excellence. I loved pulling for him. I would say more flowery things about Peyton but Rick Reilley summed it up way better than I ever could, so feel free to check out his piece here (http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/7660415/thanks-memories-peyton-manning). Now, Peyton isn’t necessarily done, but his time in Blue & White is and the ultimate end is near. This is a guy that is barely older than me and has been the best in his business. Man…I’M OLD!

Chipper Jones: I just read an article last week in which Chipper Jones was discussing how either this year or next year will be his last for Atlanta. Uh… Chipper’s rookie year finished with a World Series title in the fall of my senior year in high school. He was a kid.  I was a kid. So if he’s about to hang it up, what does that make me?! OLD!

College Basketball 2012: As I’ve been watching basketball leading up to the NCAA tournament I’ve kept noticing a lot of last names that seem awfully familiar. So I tried to compile the list of former NBA players (that played during my lifetime) that currently have kids in Division I college basketball. It is staggering! Dell Curry, Tim Hardaway, Joe Dumars, Paul Pressey, Orlando Woolridge, John Stockton, Detlef Schrempf, John Lucas, Lendell Eackles, Dikembe Mutombo, Ralph Sampson, Doc Rivers, Michael Jordon, and Glen Rice all have kids in Division I! (And that’s ignoring the fact that Karl Malone and Isaiah Thomas’ kids are in the pros along with others!). Great-googily-moogily I’M OLD!

Kevin Love: I can already see some of you beginning to scratch your head, so bear with me. Last month when I was in Minneapolis I made a point of getting to a Timberwolves game to be able to experience watching Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio perform their basketball ballet. It was awesome and the T-Pups took care of business. Why am I lamenting this? Because it just hit me that the guy that I really wanted to go watch as a professional athlete is A DECADE YOUNGER THAN ME!!!! A DECADE!!! Yep…I’M OLD!

The Kansas City Royals: After 11 years in Kansas City the Royals have etched a spot deep in my heart as my favorite American League team. I’m excited about the upcoming season and the potential for the seasons to come. My favorite Royal right now is First Baseman Eric Hosmer and it just hit me that he is ELEVEN years younger than me. I mean, I was nearly a teenager when he was born, and now I’m thinking about how cool it would be to have a jersey of his! In fact there is only one player on the entire Royals 40-man roster (Bruce Chen) that was even born in the same decade as me!! Let’s take it up a notch… Chen is also the only person on the 40-man roster older than my lovely wife! Everyone jokes that I robbed the cradle when I married her and SHE’S older than 39 of the 40 guys on the roster. *Sigh*. It’s time to embrace the facts… I’M OLD!

But I guess the flip-side of this whole thing is that I’m old enough to be only a couple years away from getting to hear my kids go on and on about their favorite players and starting this whole cycle over again. Yep…Old doesn’t seem so bad.

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Categories: Sports General

2 replies

  1. …and shortly after this was published Hines Ward announced his retirement and then Chipper Jones, another long-time part of my life, also announced that this will be his final year. Yep… I’m DEFINITELY old!

  2. And because the hits just keep on coming, Kerry Wood and of most significance, Pat Summitt have also called it a career. Wow.

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