Monday, July 20, 2009

Old Man Watson

He lost it on the 18th green, when a putt he’s made a thousand times in his long career came up short, forcing a playoff that ended his hopes quickly. A few months shy of 60, Tom Watson gave a lot of us “geezers” a thrill.

Watson called himself a geezer on the Friday of the British Open, and I’m sure he meant it as irony. But sports writers and columnists and commentators had a field day with the “age” issue, particularly on television, where the default position is EXCESS.

You’d think Watson was pushed up to the 18th green in a wheelchair, and shakily attempting to maintain his balance on the green, according to the picture the announcers were painting about this “old” man. The only “old” sports analogy the ABC announcers didn’t drag up, during Watson’s march down the 18th fairway, was that George Foreman was the Heavyweight Champion of the World at age 45, a feat far greater than Watson’s would have been.

Golf is a game you’re supposed to be able to play all your life. When you start losing your distance off the tee because your body isn’t as supple and your muscles not as strong, you just use a lower-lofted iron on the fairway for your second shot. And putting has always been the great equalizer.
So what’s the big deal about a guy who’s 59 doing well in a sport you’re supposed to be able to play all your life? I guess, because nobody his age has ever done so well in a major tournament. But stand by for this to change, because they weren’t’ kidding when they said 60 is the new 40.

I get more than a little tired of all these youngsters in their 30’s thinking guys like Watson are “old”. Wisconsin native Andy North, one of the ESPN golf commentators, was born in March of 1950, so I guess the guys that work with him must figure it’s extremely unusual for someone born in 1949 like Watson, to actually be playing competitive golf. Mike Tirico is pushin’ 50.

Having attained 60 this past May, it probably irritates me more than usual to hear someone my age, like Tom Watson, referred to by the TV announcers as if he were Methuselah. I don’t “feel” sixty, at least not in the sense of my dad’s generation. I was 35 when my dad turned 60, and I know darn well my dad’s 60 was not the same as my 60.

Guys my age talk about it frequently, how we feel so much better than our dads did, at our age. We know so much more about diet and pharmaceutical chemistry these days, and its impact on aging. The only guys I don’t mind calling me an age-related name are the guys over 80 who are members at the health club I attend. They call me “young fellow”.

But I have little doubt that even though he didn’t win the British Open, the TV folks will be talking all week about how this “old man”, Tom Watson, gave everybody a thrill.

Those of us who are Tom Watson’s age will be snickering.

1 comment:

  1. Buckle your seat belts and say that final hopeless prayer, as your plane makes it's fiery final decent.
    I, too, have passed that 60 marker where the road gets narrow. I'm not readhy to go 'down to the river', but I know my boat has sprung a leak.

    Said the lady can you do,
    What my other man can't do--

    *L. Hughes