In the movie “Rocky Balboa,” trainer Duke Evers explains to the title character what it’ll take for him to have a puncher’s chance against a much younger, much faster boxer.
“You know all there is to know about fighting, so there’s no sense us going down that same old road again,” Evers says. “To beat this guy, you need speed – you don’t have it. And your knees can’t take the pounding, so hard running is out. And you got arthritis in your neck, and you’ve got calcium deposits on most of your joints, so sparring is out. So, what we’ll be calling on is good, ol’ fashioned, blunt-force trauma.”
I can relate because I, too, am an older athlete. And by “older athlete” I mean I wear T-shirts with sports logos and have an ESPN+ subscription.
Actually I do try to stay physically fit. I walk a minimum of five miles per day (I usually average seven) and work out with (tiny) weights three times a week. I also do 25 push-ups each morning. They aren’t the cool, one-armed push-ups like Rocky does … they’re more of the strained, butt-sticking-high-in-the-air kind. Still, not bad for guy born with 20 days remaining in the Eisenhower Administration.
However, I’m far removed from my youthful heyday as a right winger in soccer, cross-country runner and 220 sprinter. That being said, this pandemic has made me want to get more active once the world begins anew and I’m able to have maskless interactions with other humanoids. I’d like to take up a sport, but it has to be one that I can enjoy and at least have the illusion of being competitive.
Right off the bat I can tell you that sport will not be boxing. Outside of high school gym class I’ve never done it, and my record for after-school parking lot fights is 0-1.
I don’t want to get beat up or beat down, likely scenarios if I stepped into the squared circle.
Golf is also out. I “played” it for decades, but have finally reached the conclusion that I simply don’t enjoy it. I’m no good at it, I’ve never been good at it, and I’ll never be good at it.
Once I T-boned another golf cart to avoid driving into a water hazard, and that’s my most memorable moment.
When a vehicular accident is your top golf memory, your golf memories suck.
I love tennis and played quite a bit back in the day, but I just don’t think my joints could handle it anymore. I was aggressive and liked to cover a lot of court, but now I’d have to stick to a baseline game which is a style I never particularly liked.
I’d also need to buy a racket, because I can’t find the one I last used back in 1992.
Swimming is out. Sure, I like putting on goggles, swim fins and water wings while frolicking in a kiddie pool – who doesn’t? – but all that Michael Phelps nonsense is just too much work.
And riding bicycles is fun but I don’t want to do it for sport. Once I was racing a friend and crashed, getting a rather substantial boo-boo on my left knee. That was a long time ago (I was 11) but I still don’t really like talking about it.
Even softball is a risk. While there’s a fair amount of burping, scratching and standing around, I might still find myself trying to beat out a single and therefore pull a hammy.
So after deep thought and careful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that my best path forward is through badminton.
If you’re a member of the Badminton World Federation (which includes 176 nations and five continental federations), please understand that I’m not making fun of the game or belittling it in any way.
Quite the contrary.
To play it at a high level requires great skill, and all the Olympic badminton matches I’ve watched over the years have been top quality and highly entertaining.
But the beauty of the sport is that it can be played on a recreational level by duffers like me. And if I can just get to the point where I think I’m good – even though I’m not – that’ll be enough.
Badminton is a draw for me because there’s a certain familiarity to tennis, although I won’t be required to cover as much ground or do any significant running.
Even better, it’s not played with a ball or puck, but a shuttlecock. While the name sounds like a rooster that drives you to the airport, it’s actually a truly unique piece of sports equipment and an aerodynamic wonder.
Best of all, badminton seems ubiquitous in my neighborhood.
During this pandemic I’ve passed several nets while out for my early morning walk, and occasionally I’ll see little kids playing with their parents.
I’m not sure about mom and dad, but I like my chances against the young ‘uns. There are a couple of toddlers who basically just waddle around and swing aimlessly, so I’d beat them easily.
What I hope to do, though, is find opponents my own age and older and challenge them to badminton matches.
There is a diminutive man on my walking route – probably mid to late 70s – who resembles Bernie Sanders. I don’t know his actual name so I call him “Homunculus B” (not to his face … that would be horrible) and he seems like someone who would enjoy losing to me in badminton.
I’ve already envisioned destroying him with a series of overhead smashes.
There’s also a woman I used to see watering her grass that would be an easy “W.” She’s 90 if she’s a day.
Then again it’s been a few weeks since I caught her outside, so she might be on the PUP list (Permanently Unable to Perform).
Regardless, once the world gets back to normal I’m thinking badminton will be my new sports jam. I might have to resort to some “good, old-fashioned blunt force trauma” against my outmatched foes, but hey – older athletes like me have to be crafty.