Print and Go Back Commentary

Thursday, May 3, 2012
Athletes, musicians defy age-old myths

By Jim Caple

Bruce Springsteen's monumental 1984 album, "Born in the U.S.A.," included the top-five single "Glory Days," in which he sang about a friend who was a big baseball player back in high school who "could throw that speedball by you."

Obviously, that friend was not Jamie Moyer.

Or perhaps it was. With a fastball and changeup so slow that Colorado teammate Jason Giambi questions how they even stay in the air, Moyer definitely still makes major leaguers "look like a fool, boy." Moyer began his pro career the same year "Born in the U.S.A." was released and last month at age 49 became the oldest pitcher in major league history to win a game. In his most recent start, "Ol' One Mississippi, Two Mississippi" struck out seven batters and left the game with a 3.14 ERA, the lowest in the Rockies' rotation.

Moyer isn't talking about his former glory days at some roadside bar, he's still making new ones. And he's not the only old athlete doing so.

Janet Evans won three gold medals at the 1988 Olympics when she was 17 years old, or only 4-6 years older than Justin Bieber's fan base. This summer she is attempting to make the U.S. Olympic team at age 40 (she'll turn 41 two weeks after the London Games end), 16 years after her last previous Olympic appearance.

That's nothing compared to Dara Torres, however. Almost three decades after winning her first gold medal at 17 in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and after medaling again at age 41 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she is attempting to compete in the London Olympics this summer at age 45. That would be her sixth Olympics, or nearly as many as Jim McKay.

These athletes are the Springsteen and Madonna of sports, still performing at a top level when their counterparts have fallen off the charts and into retirement -- or much worse, onto a reality show. These athletes and performers are not simply living off big league pensions and music royalties. Nor are they playing in old-timers games and unending oldies tours of casinos and wineries for boomers who still have their eight-track tapes (but trashed their rookie cards in bicycle spokes). Instead, they are still cranking out new material and victories while packing stadiums and arenas so grand not even David Stern or Bud Selig would insist taxpayers need to replace them.

Springsteen is 62 but, like Moyer, hasn't let age slow him down. He's released six albums (or whatever they call them now) in the past decade, including the new "Wrecking Ball," and is currently on a world tour. That tour includes two dates at Wrigley Field, where Moyer began his career before there were lights at the ballpark, and Citizens Bank Park, where Moyer won his first World Series.

There were also rumors of a stop at Fenway Park (before Gillette Stadium was added), where Springsteen and Moyer have both played. The Boss, however, has a better record at Fenway -- one sellout performance ranked among the stadium's 100 Greatest Moments by ESPN Boston compared to Moyer's 7-8, 6.10 ERA career mark in Boston (no wonder the Red Sox traded him to the Mariners for Darren Bragg).

Madonna, meanwhile, is 53 but also has released a new album, is performing on her own world tour (she'll play Yankee Stadium) and is still in such incredible shape, she looks like she could swim the anchor leg of a winning relay with Evans and Torres and then work out with her personal trainer.

Of course, Torres and her physique might make even Madonna look like Oprah. And remember, folks, this not only is the body of a 45-year-old, this is the body of a 45-year-old mother. She swam in her first Olympics the summer before Madonna released "Like a Virgin" and Torres may swim in another Olympics the summer after Madonna released "MDNA." The Soviet Union is no longer around to compete (or boycott) an Olympics but Torres and Evans still are.

Torres and Evans also have enough bling to attract the Material Girl's attention, what with their 17 combined Olympic medals, eight of them gold. Or at least, that's their medal count right now. Check back in August.

Popular culture and sports are skewing younger and younger, or perhaps it just seems that way now that I'm 50 years old and the only new music I can identify are the songs played when 19-year-old Bryce Harper walks up to the plate. Fortunately, there are still a few figures who help aging fans feel relevant while listening to "Glory Days," "Borderline" and the Olympic theme on our Sony Walkmans.

By the way, Moyer and Madonna have something in common as well -- Jose Canseco struck out against both of them.