I can understand why pro athletes hang on too long. Why Michael Jordon came back out of retirement twice, or why Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver of all time, stayed around too long. Time chipped away at them without their knowing. It's invisible pride.
I'm now 59 years old, but still love to play pickup basketball on Saturday mornings with a group of guys at our church gym. There's one other fellow who's a few months older than I am. The rest are quite a bit younger, ranging from mid 20's to early 40's . For the longest time I got a kick out of playing. I built my week around it, going to the gym to work out at least twice a week just so I would be in shape to "run with the boys" on Saturday morning. And if I got open I could still shoot. Heck I made 23 three pointers in a row just shooting around one day a few years ago, but that's by myself. My standard line about that is that "I'm tough when there's nobody guarding me", but I'd break my own ankles if I tried some hotrod move.
It was kind of "cool" turning 50 and still hooping with the kids, but that's changing. Pickup basketball has cost me dearly. I've suffered a ruptured disc, a torn ACL, a broken foot that needed surgery and a torn rotator cuff. Each time I did the rehab as quickly as a could and came back for more, and I think that was good. It motivated me knowing that I wanted to play again. Just 3 months after my last torn rotator surgery in April I was on the hardwood again. I enjoyed showing and telling others in my 50 plus club to stay after it. My next goal was to be in decent enough shape to hoop with the guys into my 60's. But I'm not sure I'll make it. Most of my basketball buddies from years gone bye had moved on with their lives. I still seem to live in the past. I still somehow feel that on a given day, when my knee feels good, I'll be able to light it up one more time, but I think I'm whistling in the cemetery. The legs just aren't there any more and as a result, neither is the shot because every good athlete knows when the legs go, the game goes.
What I'm learning about life is that you don't feel yourself age from day to day. You look in the mirror and don't see much change from one day to the next. It was that way with Michael Jordan and with Jerry Rice. They just couldn't see or feel that tiny erosion that crept into their game. Their pride pushed them on, beyond where they should have quit. They were still great, even at the end of their careers, not like a weekend athlete like me, but I can relate in my own simple way. Somehow I always wanted to bow out in a blaze of glory, with a dynamite game and then fade into the sunset. Unfortunately I think I'm just going to do the fading part. It bothers me alot. I can just imagine how it ate at Jordon or Rice.
I often laugh and tell people that I'm in the twilight of a mediocre career as an athlete, but inside there's that burning desire to show them one more time that "I've still got game". Foolish isn't it. There's so much more to life, because ultimately I should be thankful that God has given me the overall health to run around at this age and to make a difference in other ways.
I enjoy being my own experiment in life. I've never gone through this before. It's interesting to see how I'm reacting.
Pride is a harsh word, I'd rather just be thankful.