by Josh St. Hill
In the world of sports the game has always been handed down to the youth from adults to kids not a day over 19, although there still stands a group of players showing youth who the top dogs can be. Kobe Bryant in basketball, Peyton Manning in football, and Julio Franco (who finally retired at 49) in baseball all have one thing in common: playing past their prime.
Bryant arguably is the closest player to Michael Jordan, the best player to ever hit the court. Jordan winning 6 rings, Bryant 5, Jordan MVP 6 times, Bryant 4. Yet as good as Bryant was in his prime, the present day brings a different tale altogether, most recently Bryant missed 76 games in an 82 game season, costing the lakers $28 million. If that’s not bad enough, he has not been able to perform like old the Bryant in the games he attends. In his 2005-2006 season he averaged over 35 points, and in 2013-2014 only 13 points, but for Bryant throwing the towel is not an option. In this season he’s played 8 games in total, and started all of them, averaging 16 points. In the battle against Father Time, he’s an excellent example of success.
In football, Manning of the Denver Broncos is 39 years old. He was drafted 1998. If he keeps playing for just 2 more years he’d be active for 2 decades. Though he’s made many miracles happen throughout his career, most recently he’s taken a downfall. In the whole 2006 season, Manning only had 9 interceptions; just halfway through this season, he’s already at 17. But with his recent replacement by the younger Brock Osweiler, could this be Manning’s last ride?
As bad as we’re making age out to be for athletes, there are some circumstances in which the elders are the top dog. Take Satchel Paige for example: he retired at 59 and performed excellently as a pitcher. In fact, when transferring from the Negro Leagues to the Majors, he ended up being the oldest player to win Rookie of the year. Or, look at Tim Duncan, a 39-year-old whose team actually won the finals only just a season ago.
When I look at it in the end, whatever your role in sports, age heavily effects that. With guys like Bryant who are guards and have to run around a lot and jump, or Manning, who is every linebacker’s target, age can take quite a toll. But if you are Duncan, sitting in the paint, only having to jump occasionally, or Paige, who only pitches at batters, you can have a long run in your athletic career.