December 21, 2016
I am sure you have seen the “Old Guys Rule” shirts worn by middle aged gents who want you to know that they still have old man strength and they are not ready for the pasture yet. In the world of professional sports, there are a lot of older athletes that are over 35. There was a strong group of older guys that called it a career in 2016. They didn’t just have good to average careers but long and storied careers that will be hard to imagine anybody duplicating.
Not to be outshined by all of great athletes, there was an old guy that needs a shout out. Everybody by now knows about Vince Scully, the golden piped broadcaster of many of sport, in particular the Dodgers of Los Angeles. Scully’s golden pipes will be sorely missed by Dodger fans, but he also represents more than that. He was pure class and part of great era of broadcasters than will be hard to replace. As much as I loathed the Dodgers by being a Giant fan, there is no denying that Scully never sounded like a blatant homer. His delivery was always inclusive while being articulate and smart. At the age of 88, Scully walks away after a 67-year career doing what he loved.
Just recently, the legendary boxer Bernard Hopkins fought at the age of 51. He did not have the outcome he wanted but he still looked in great physical shape and moved well. Professional boxing into your fifties sounds like something of a novelty and a freak show. Hopkins is the rarest of examples of an athlete that could pull off such a feat. He was always one of the most brilliant tacticians in the ring and was such a great defensive boxer that he could avoid a lot of blows. Very few sports fans or even the general public know much about what a great and remarkable life he has led. Take the time to read up on his story from teenage problem child, to prison inmate to great middleweight champion. He is considered one of the best middleweights of all time.
If a professional athlete is still performing into their late thirties, then they are defying Father Time. If they can avoid the pitfalls of debilitating injuries, then they have a chance to prolong their career. Once the back and knees start failing most athletes will go into a downturn in performance. This is why you once saw the big push in steroid use which allowed athletes to over train and build amazing stamina. Now that the use of antibolic steroids is being more stringently tested you see might less of the old guys still playing.
This year we saw the careers of Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, David Ortiz come to an end. These three had long runs that defied the norm and all of them will be headed into the Hall of Fame for their sports. Tom Brady is latest old guy that is defying the age stereotype by still being the best quarterback in the league. Brady amazes me by being a pocket passer his whole career and taking a significant amount of physical pounding by 280-pound defensive linemen.
NHL Hockey has a few forty-year olds still on the ice and still contributing to their teams. Shane Doan (40) is a right wing for the Arizona Coyotes, Matt Cullen (40) is a center on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jaromir Jágr (44) a right wing for the Florida Panthers. Hockey has a long list of players who have played into their forties. Gordy Howe the iconic man of hockey played until he was fifty-two. I am not sure how these guys do it when you look at the physical aspect of hockey. Some say that the size and speed of the newer generation of players has increased so that can be translated into a more violent game. We might not see the older players as much unless the game itself changes.
We all like to see every team have an older statesman to show the younger players a thing or too. Now that there is more than just Ben Gay to keep the old guys going and you will start to see more age defying players. The advanced training methods, physical therapy and medical procedures will keep the older athletes going longer and longer.
Lastly, George Blanda the legendary quarterback and placekicker who played until he 48, in 1976 had this to say, “Personally, I think it’s a shame, all the star football players who retired in the prime of life. Lou Groza, washed up at 43. Ben Agajanian prematurely retired at 45. Y. A. Tittle, gone when he was 38 and Bob Waterfield at 33. Norm Van Brocklin hung them up at 35 as did Otto Graham, the finest quarterback I’ve ever seen. Why, that’s a tragedy. Does anybody really think Otto Graham couldn’t have played six or eight more seasons? Of course, he could. Even now, at 49, Otto handles himself better than most of the young bucks right out of college. But like all the others, he fell victim to one of pro football’s many unreasoning prejudices: that you’re no longer capable of playing when you reach 30 or 35. Baloney!”
Photo of Brady – WWW.abcnews.com