MURPHY'S LAW Sports are a generational game

By Patrick Murphy

I’m of the age in which a lot of the athletes I admired in my youth are now gone or seem to have suddenly gotten old.

When I was a kid watching sports the athletes seemed larger than life, excelling at things I could only dream about.

Reggie Jackson was my hero. I loved watching him play baseball like I have never loved watching anyone play before or after him.

He’s now 75 years old. 

When did that happen?

I still remember in vivid recollection the three home runs he hit on three consecutive pitches, off three different pitchers in the 1977 World Series.

Like a typical fan, I shared in his big night because it gave me some sort of weird bragging rights, that the player I rooted for was the king that night.

Now, he is long retired, and lives in my memories — and on Twitter.

My other boyhood idols have also reached graybeard status.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is 74, and Magic Johnson is 62. Even Larry Bird, who I rooted against because of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, but later came to admire, is 64.

They all seemed so invincible to a kid watching them on television.

They moved so gracefully, and did things with a basketball mere mortals could not imitate.

I loved watching pro basketball back then, a lot more than I do now, but back then sports and athletes seemed larger than life figures who did no wrong. Today, I understand the exceptional skills of athletes do not make them exceptional people.

At some point, all my heroes had to stop playing.

I remember Kareem retiring and wondering who I would admire as much as I admired him. The answer was no one. Like Reggie, no one captured my interest quite like Kareem did.

Then Bird and Magic, whose careers were intertwined, said goodbye, and an era was over.

Michael Jordan, and later LeBron James, entered the arena, but, to me, they were never Kareem and Magic.

It’s like that with athletes. They have their time in the sun, then the sun sets, and others rise.

I have never rooted for or admired any athletes like I did the ones of my youth. 

That’s what makes sports generational.

My dad, when I was in high school, gave me one of his most prized possessions, and autographed picture of Ted Williams.

The Red Sox outfielder, the Splendid Splinter, the greatest hitter who ever lived, was my dad’s hero.

I’m sure he never admired another ballplayer like he did Ted Williams.

My dad taught me the game of baseball as I taught it to my children. He had his Ted Williams and I had Reggie Jackson, and we talked baseball all our lives.

I talk baseball with my son, Alek, and my daughter, Claire and her husband, Trent, just came back from a trip to Chicago where they saw the Cubs play.

Kids today admire athletes, and someday those players will retire, making way for new players admired by new fans.

Then one day they will realize all those great players they loved watching are now sporting gray beards and AARP cards, and they will realize, once again, how quickly time goes by.

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor at The Telegram.