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What's In? Wrinkled 'Skin

Jan. 19, 2004
Jan. 19, 2004

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Jan. 19, 2004

What's In? Wrinkled 'Skin

Today's weather forecast calls for 1973 over most of the country,
with a cool front of old guys moving in fast and a 98% chance of
way more Matlock reruns.

This is an article from the Jan. 19, 2004 issue

Has old ever been newer? Look around, Bubba. College point guards
are into the senior-citizen look--long shorts, black socks pulled
up to their knees and six-inch-high, mesh-style caps. The hottest
things to wear are jerseys that honor wrinkly old jocks. From
Montauk to Mission Viejo, we're one giant Early Bird Special.

Joe Gibbs, 63, is the latest proof that old guys are hip, even if
that hip is artificial. The Washington Redskins just gave him
close to $30 million to coach for five years, and he hasn't so
much as blown a whistle in 11 years. That's because the Redskins
want to be more like the Kansas City Chiefs, who are led by a guy
who is 67, Dick Vermeil, who wants to be more like Florida
Marlins manager Jack McKeon, who just won a World Series at 72.

Hey, bartender, creamed corn for everybody!

(Yo, Deion Sanders. You looking for a head-coaching job? Call us
in 40 years.)

If age is the rage, let's find more! Who's the next geezer to be
asked to take his teeth out of the nightstand glass and sink them
into a foundering franchise?

Bum Phillips at 80? "Hail, no!" Phillips said from his
cutting-horse ranch in Golead, Texas. "I mean, I could do it if I
wanted to, but I don't want to. I love what I'm doin' now!"

Bud Grant, 76? He hasn't coached the Minnesota Vikings since 1985
and couldn't be dragged back by six Clydesdales. "Do I miss
coaching?" Grant told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Only when I
go to the bank."

John Madden, 67? "Man, the more I keep hearing about it," he said
from his truck, driving to a golf game in Carmel, Calif., "the
more you'd think I'd go, 'Hey, maybe me, too.' But the 'Me, too'
part never comes."

How about you, 75-year-old Marv Levy, want to be recycled? "Yes!"
Levy told the Chicago Tribune. "Look at Vermeil, [62-year-old
Bill] Parcells and McKeon. In my opinion age doesn't mean
anything."

Actually, age means a lot. In case you haven't been paying
attention, wisdom rules. Both of the 2003 World Series managers
were over 60. Hubie Brown is coaching the Memphis Grizzlies to
their best start in franchise history at 70. Bobby Bowden won two
national titles at Florida State after turning 63. Scotty Bowman
won three Stanley Cups after 60. John Glenn was a space hero at
77. Cripes, Frank Sinatra recently played Radio City Music Hall
and he's dead.

What about you, Representative Tom Osborne (R., Neb.)? Say the
word and Nebraska would fire Bill Callahan before he could unpack
his clipboard. "I thought about it a couple of years after I
left," said Osborne, 66, "but my grandson, who was five at the
time, called crying because he thought I was going to move
someplace else to coach. That pretty much ended that."

How about you, 77-year-old Joe Paterno, would you like to--oops,
sorry.

Don Shula, 74, said thanks, but no thanks. Darrell Royal, 79, put
his foot down, too. "Besides, I don't really know if I could
relate to today's player," said Royal, who was home in Austin,
after playing a round of golf, "because I don't know what kids
are thinking these days. Maybe they couldn't relate to me
either."

The more guys you talk to, the more you realize most of them are
having too much fun to follow Gibbs at any price. Dean Smith, 72,
shudders at the thought of hotels and fund-raisers again. From
Pembroke Pines, Fla., Earl Weaver, 72, hollered, "Are you kiddin'
me? I'm playin' golf every day!"

Tommy Lasorda, 76, wouldn't bite, either. "There's no doubt in my
mind I could manage as I always had," he said while stuck in L.A.
traffic, "but what more can you do? I'm in the Hall of Fame. I've
reached the top of the mountain, and everything you do from now
on would be no good."

Life's a bitch.

There was only one other retired coach I talked to who was nuts
enough to give it a try: 93-year-old John Wooden. "If I could
just be sort of an assistant," he says, "I'd love that. You know,
just someone to help with practice, do a little teaching. Of
course, with my knees, I couldn't demonstrate the footwork
anymore. But if I could just be a helper, I think I'd really love
it."

He wouldn't ask much. The most he ever made in 27 years at UCLA
was $32,500. But, then, he doesn't spend much. He still drives
his 1989 Taurus with the 33,000 miles on it. And he seems to know
basketball pretty well. After all, he did win 10 national
championships.

So, anybody want to give the kid a chance?

If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to reilly@siletters.com.

COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER

The Redskins' hiring Joe Gibbs, 63, is the latest proof that old
guys are hip, even if that hip is artificial.