File this one as/under "dispatches from the road," as work is taking me to Charlotte by way of Gainesville, by way of Tampa, twice.
And, though it is work-related travel, I didn't need my computer — except, as I realized after touching down in Tampa on Friday, to write this column. So, and as there's a first time for everything — I'm typing this one (the whole thing) on my phone.
Sometimes, when I sit, wondering what to write, I start out a few times, but the subject and/or the first few lines don't come out right.
This was one of those weeks, no doubt, or at least in part, because my circadian rhythms were thrown a bit out of whack by the break in my otherwise ordinary work week routine.
Then, there it was, sitting right in front of me. Literally. An oversized, gilded yellow armchair — almost identical in color to the jackets worn by the members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — was my visual cue.
"Father Time is undefeated."
Somewhat serendipitously so, this saying is a relatively new entrant into the lexicon of sports speak — offered up in the mid-aughts by Hall of Famer Michael Irvin to describe the most notable of this weekend's class of inductees into football's hallowed Hall, Brett Favre. (Though I'm sure, or at least I'd like to think, that Yogi Berra once made a similar observation while looking at his watch or while watching someone cheat, skirt, or escape death.)
We all get and grow old. And while I'm not "there" yet (sorry, there's no italics function/key on my phone), I think I bore witness to one of Father Time's cruel reminder-like tricks this weekend, watching as ESPN showed shot-after-shot of ill-aged former football greats, their bodies and minds failing them, looking like shells and/or near ghosts of their former selves.
It was sad.
We all grew up watching our generation's version of an all-time great. Whether the frame was on the field, the court, or the course (in the ring, a pool, etc.), their abilities, accomplishments, athleticism, and the aesthetics of that athleticism inherent in their bodies commanded our attention, demanded our respect, and earned our admiration.
Seeing these men (and women) as shades and shells of their former selves does more than stir our sympathies — it elicits an earnest empathy borne out by our own aging.
The older you are, the older they've gotten. In much the way that clips of their fetes, triumphs, and victories bring back memories of (y)our own Glory Days, seeing their decline(s) toward death is a sobering reminder of (y)our own mortality; (y)our own age, aging, and/or agedness.
Again and/or the themes of Favre's and his fellow inductees' speeches aside, the sight of a grayed gunslinger, a limping/lumbering former lineman, and an ALS-ridden octogenarian who looks like the great great grandfather of the chisel-chinned man in the bronzed bust, more so than birthdays, become our annual reminders of our own futile fights with Father Time.
Like the Dickensian theme of it being both the best and the worst of times, at the same time, seeing what becomes of those all-time greats from each and all of our childhoods — celebrating their achievements while witnessing the toll time has taken — is a sobering sight and a reminder of the relentlessness of Father Time.
These men, once the fastest, strongest, and toughest among us, now the walking, shaking, tremor-ing reminder that we all get older. We all move slower, hunched over a little lower.
As it relates to this "dispatch from the road," I witnessed it before seeing the scenes from Canton. I felt it in my own back after a round of golf. I was reminded of it by my own 40 pounds of bad, sedentary (commuter and desk-based) work-week weight reflection in the mirror. (I no longer look lean, strong, or athletic.) And, being in the company of current-day professional and world class athletes, was made well-aware of my own age when asked repeatedly, "so, who did you play for?"
Followed by some version of, "when did you play... in the '80s?" and/or, "you must've played with [fill in the blank with someone 20 years my senior]."
Watching one-time, all-time greats shake with uncontrollable tremors, or sit, swimming in suit jackets that, once upon a time, were fitted to compliment their athletic and muscular physiques, and/or simply seeing them grayed and grandfatherly looking is sobering.
Very much so — especially for those of us who enjoy sports.
Even for those whose highs aren't necessarily followed or balanced by lows, Father Time nonetheless follows. And, to-date, he's yet to be beat.