Realities of aging are tough on athletes

09/02/2010 12:00 AM |

My son is 8 years old, and as such doesn’t have an appreciation of how much pain his 40-something father’s body is in the day after a softball doubleheader. He doesn’t know or care that Thursday is a garbage day, which means the pails have to be taken to the curb the night before, and doesn’t get why I have to spend any time clearing the dishes after dinner when there are games to be played.

Wiffle ball in the backyard. Baseball in the front. Hockey in the driveway. “Tackles” on the living room rug. It’s always go time.

It’s just that as I get older, it’s tougher to get going.

Knee surgery in May didn’t help, although I take great pride in the fact that I made it back onto the field before the Mets’ Carlos Beltran. Then again, we are talking about over-40 softball, where the conversation over post-game libation is as much about everyone’s various aches, pains and pulls as it is about the games themselves. If you’re playing, you’re hurting. We’re old.

The soul is willing but the body is weak.

It’s not easy to concede to the realities of aging. A few months ago a few of the men in our office challenged a group from another department in a game of touch football. Other than my colleague’s 10-year-old son, I was the only one on our team under 50. But it didn’t matter, this was just going to be a fun game, a chance to throw the ball around and maybe briefly relive some past glory.

Then the other team showed up.

We knew that there would be a couple of younger folks on the other side, but when I saw three dudes just out of college — all athletes, all young, strong and fast — geared up and ready to go, cleats on their feet, I knew we were in for a long day.

I suppose at that point we should have acknowledged the age disparity and offered to choose up fairer sides. But we forged ahead with the original plan, us versus them, pride overriding common sense.

We got hammered.

The competitor in me thought the younger guys were enjoying it a bit too much, running a no-huddle, hurry-up offense to take advantage of the fact that we were having a tough enough time catching our breath, let alone catching a pass or catching one of these guys running down the field.

This was supposed to be for fun, right? It was all I could do not to wait for one of these fellas to run a crossing pattern over the middle and, like Chuck Bednarik (or Ray Lewis for you young folks) just lay him out.

Whoops! Sorry, my depth perception isn’t what it used to be. Are those your teeth?

That didn’t happen, of course. We shook hands and said “good game,” and that is probably the last touch football game we will play for a long time.