Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Sports and Age: A Few Notes" by Dad


     A few random thoughts on the age-old issue of age and sports. It seems to have been more than ordinarily in the news of late.

     First, with his win at the British Open, Rory McElroy becomes just the third player in history to win three legs of a career Grand Slam by the age of 25.  The other two? Nicklaus and Woods.  Pretty elite company, especially for a guy who was sort of golf AWOL for a year.  

     Also worth noting at this year’s British Open was that Tom Watson, at the age of 64, finished at just one over par.  And of course Watson won this tournament in 2009 at the advanced age of 59, prompting Tina Fey on SNL to remark that golf shouldn’t even be considered a sport if a guy can win a tournament at 59. Little snarky, and I’m going to go with the simple rule that if they sell the equipment in a sporting goods store, then it’s a sport.

     Age and tennis has also been in the news.  It was noted in more than a few places that the average age of truly top tier players is currently 30, plus or minus a year or two. One magazine even proclaimed that in tennis, “30 is the new 20,” and pointed out that when Tracy Austin won the US Open in 1979 at the age of 16, she was by today’s standards woefully small and under muscled. Interesting that, just last year, Federer was starting to be written off as too old to remain at the top of the tennis food chain.  Not sure what changed, but this summer the men’s and women’s top 20 are both filled with the names of players well past 20.

     And then there’s Derek Jeter, playing a credible shortstop and hitting around .275 as he plays his final season at the age of 40, after missing virtually all of last year. And all topped of by that truly age-defying All Star Game performance, both at bat and in the field.  To put this in perspective, only 4 shortstops in the history of the game have played even 100 games at the age of 40: Barry Larkin, in 2004, and Omar Vizquel, in 2007, did so fairly recently.  To get to the other two, you have to jump back to Luke Appling in 1947 and then waaaaay back to Honus Wagner in 1914. Yup, Jeter would be just the fifth in 100 years.

     Hard to draw any hard conclusions from any of this. Just seemed worth noting in a blog dedicated to sports across the generations.