I could say “it seemed like only yesterday” but that would be so close to lying I might be expected to run for public office. In fact it seems like about thirty years ago. That was when I noticed that high school basketball players seemed to be getting considerably younger. Much too young to be so tall and playing varsity basketball.
It was a good while after that—maybe ten years or so—when I became aware that a similar phenomenon was occurring with college athletes. “Aren’t they supposed to finish high school before they start playing college ball?” I asked Randa. She smiled and kindly reassured me, “Oh, I’m sure they did finish high school, dear.” I still had my doubts, especially about the kicker.
Time drifted on and I began to notice the hair on my shoulders and the age in my eyes, as Don Williams and Waylon Jennings each sang in their covers of Bob McDill’s “Amanda.” Some while after that Randa observed that my basketball playing had morphed a bit as well. One day I mourned the decline of my vertical jump. In a gentle voice Randa asked me “Has your ‘jump shot’ turned into a ‘hop shot,’ my darling?”
About the time the humor wore off of that one, I was watching a game. “Good grief!” I exclaimed right in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. “That wide receiver can’t be more than a teenager! I don’t think he’s even started shaving yet!”
“Oh, honey,” Randa replied. “Don’t be silly. You’re watching a women’s basketball game.”
Of course, she was just making a joke. She sat down next to me for a while, mostly for giving the illusion of consolation, I imagine. A couple of first downs later, they pulled the kid out of the game for a few plays. The camera pulled in for a close-up while he took off his helmet. “Oh, wow, you’re right!” Randa gasped, “There’s no way that kid’s old enough to play professional football!”
Well, misery does love company I suppose. At least some of the announcers still look my age. I do miss John Madden, though. When you realize that many of the people you’ve admired in sports have retired, it sort of brings home that notion of aging and mortality. And while I do agree that how you play the game is pretty darn important, when it comes to eternity, it does matter whether you win or lose.