2021 proving age really is just a number for older athletes | Marcase

John Marcase
Special to the Town Talk

Two months ago, I hit the big milestone – the Hawaii 5-0.

I did so as the family and I traveled to Colorado to spend the Easter holiday. My middle son, 10-year-old Cooper, called me “Old Man” for the remainder of the trip.

A couple of days after I turned 50, I was tempted to enjoy the cool Colorado temps and get in a quick run. The family was horrified at the thought I’d end up on the side of the highway dead from a heart attack due to lack of oxygen thanks to the 8,000 feet of elevation where we were staying.

Admittedly, having to climb three flights of stairs while carrying luggage left me short of breath during our stay in Colorado. But, climbing stairs at work, where the elevation of Alexandria is a robust 75 feet, also leaves me short of breath.

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The Colorado run did not happen and we all made it home safely, even Cooper.

I’ve been thinking about that missed run more and more as I witness what is taking place in sports in 2021.

I once declared Father Time was undefeated. It catches up with even the best – Willie Mays, Johnny Unitas, Michael Jordan. We’ve been seeing it with Albert Pujols and his quest for 700 home runs. Only three players in major league history have reached the milestone – in order, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. Pujols has 670 after the Dodgers signed him following his release by the Angels earlier this season, but it is doubtful Pujols will have a chance to reach 700.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kick off the 2021 NFL season by hosting the Dallas Cowboys.

In February, Tom Brady, 43, became the oldest quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl when Tampa Bay defeated Kansas City. It was his seventh Super Bowl victory and the fifth time he was named MVP. The Bucs are among the favorites in the NFC to return to the Super Bowl in 2022 thanks to Brady’s presence.

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Last weekend, Phil Mickelson, at 50, became the oldest golfer to win a major championship, when he won the PGA Championship at the Ocean Course in South Carolina. During the final round, on Hole No. 16, a par-5 covering 608 yards, Mickelson’s tee shot covered 366 yards. It was the longest drive of the tournament on the hole and five yards longer than his final-round playing partner, 31-year-old Brooks Koepka, who ranks 17th on the PGA Tour in driving distance. Mickelson’s drive and victory was inspiring for those of us who have hit the half-century mark.

Phil Mickelson holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C. ( DAVID J. PHILLIP / AP PHOTO )

Alas, Mickelson missed the cut over the weekend at Colonial.

But then came Sunday, when 46-year-old Helio Castroneves charged past 24-year-old Alex Palou to win his record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500.

Helio broke into major Indy Car racing in the old CART series in the mid-1990s, about the same time I began covering the sport. When I first met Helio, his name was Helio Castro-Neves. After a year or so, marketing won out and he changed his name to Helio Castroneves.

A few things about Helio haven’t changed over the years – his constant smile and love for life, his jet black hair and how to go fast at Indianapolis, whether he is driving for Team Penske, where he won his first three 500s, or for the smaller Meyer Shank Racing, which is best known for its success in sports car racing.

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Helio’s win Sunday was his second prestigious victory in 2021. In January, he was part of the winning Wayne Taylor Racing team at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

Brady, Mickelson and Castroneves give hope for all of us Generation Xers out there.

It’s also comfort when Cooper reminds me – constantly – that I’m the oldest dad in his class. Or the oldest dad (and coach) on his baseball team.

Next time Cooper’s team wins, I might even climb the fence like Castroneves after a victory. I just hope someone is there to help me down.

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.