Column: One for the old guys

If there is anything piling up faster than the snow outside, it’s the not-so-subtle reminders that I’m Live Mikegetting old.

Now, I’m not talking about the fact that my back is acting up after I spent the past two days shoveling my driveway, or the fact snow days are now a nuisance rather than a cause for celebration. I’m talking about the signals that the sports world is sending me as a reminder to start looking into how to claim my AARP benefits.

On Feb. 12, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter announced he will be retire at the end of 2014, prompting Yankee fans everywhere to suffer conniptions brought about by PCS, or Post Captain Syndrome.

On Feb. 12, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced he will retire at the end of the 2014 season. Sports Editor Mike Smith thinks the captain’s retirement is another piece of sports news that makes him feel a little bit older. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.com

On Feb. 12, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced he will retire at the end of the 2014 season. Sports Editor Mike Smith thinks the captain’s retirement is another piece of sports news that makes him feel a little bit older. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.com

Now, normally I delight in the suffering of Yankee fans. So they’re finally going to have to make do without the surefire Hall of Famer that’s patrolled the middle of the infield for the better part of 20 years? I’m guessing Mets fans have little sympathy for the grief-stricken Bronx diehards.

But within the outpouring of sentiment we’ve seen from Yankee fans in the last week, there has been one particular thing that struck a chord even with me, a diehard Red Sox fan. For many  fans, Derek Jeter is the only everyday New York shortstop that people my age have ever really seen.

At nearly 30 years old, my time as a baseball fan certainly predates Jeter’s arrival in the Bronx. Of course, I remember guys like Alvaro Espinoza and Andy Stankiewicz playing the position, but, over the last 18 years, barring an injury here and there, there has been nobody in the gamesave Mariano Rivera, who retired last year—that has been synonymous with one team, with one position, as the Yankee captain.

If death and taxes are the only certainties in this life, watching Jeter make those long, jumping, cross-body throws from the hole each summer was about the only thing that gave them a run for their money. After the season, those throws will be reduced to part of baseball lore, not unlike Pete Rose’s headfirst slides and Ozzie Smith’s freewheeling acrobatics routine.

But it’s not just Jeter’s retirement that’s got me in a tizzy. Watching Peyton Manning lose in the Super Bowl—playing for former Broncos’ star John Elway, who was the first football player I idolized outside of Odessa Turner, for some reason—watching Kevin Stadler—son of Craig, one of the more colorful golfers of my childhood—win his first PGA tour event on Feb. 2, and hearing Wizard’s rookie Bradley Beal wore number 23 growing up because he idolized Lebron James, not Michael Jordan are all signs that old age is beginning to creep up on me. And that’s not even bringing the scores of 16 and 17-year-old competitors at the Sochi Olympics into the
discussion.

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m as excited about this new crop of stars as the next guy. I could watch Steph Curry launch three-pointers all day long, I can’t wait to see what Russell Wilson does next and you can be sure that, if Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or Yasiel Puig is at the plate, I’m not changing the channel. But while these young players might represent a new era in professional sports, the nostalgia I feel for these older players makes me want to see these veterans—guys Tim Duncan, Bernard Hopkins and Peyton Manning—get one last hurrah before they finally hang them up for good.

And who knows? If the Red Sox are out of things next October, I might even find myself pulling for the Yankees to give Jeter one more ring before he calls it a career.

I wouldn’t bet on it, though. Old habits are the toughest to break.

Follow Mike on Twitter, @LiveMike_Sports

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.