Once upon a time, sports made me feel incredibly young.
As a boy, my parents would take me on an annual birthday pilgrimage to Shea Stadium. It was youthful innocence at its best. We'd sit in the cheap seats, gorge on pretzels and hot dogs, scream and cheer and boo and hiss. I'd adopt a player --
In my mid-20s, I began covering baseball for
Ah, the good ol' days.
Thursday was my 38th birthday. My lower back is chronically sore. Plantar fasciitis has decimated my right foot. My six-year-old daughter and her friends increasingly drop the names of singers I've never heard of, and I can't find my car keys.
Oh, and the sporting world renders me ancient.
When we're young, we never gauge age. Heck, we never think about age. Time exists as a measure, though only in relation to the divide between events. As in, "Daddy, how many more days until we go to Disney World?" But as the years pass and the clock ticks, the sporting world becomes a haunting, semi-sadistic reminder of how quickly time evaporates. For example, the NBA currently employs 432 players. I am older than all but one of them (Stay strong,
I covered my first -- and only -- NFL Draft on April 20, 1996. I still remember the glowing grins and unparalleled optimism of the men who took the stage.
The future arrived.
The future departed.
Of the 30 first rounders, only two remain. The 28 others -- all younger than I am -- are gone. Finished. Washed up.
I've tried everything to stay relevant. The back of my sweatpants reads J-U-I-C-Y. I'm down with the hip lingo, yo. My shorts are baggy. I'm considering a neck tattoo. I'm finally starting to grasp that
And yet, sports keep dragging me back down.
Growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., one of my neighbors was a kid named
Two Februarys ago I dialed his number once again, thinking that the start of spring training would spark something inside of the lefty.
"I'm done," he told me. "No chance."
"Nope," he said. "I'm a teacher now. I'm happy."
"Why?" he said flatly. "Because, man, we're old."