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OLD-TIMERS KEEP DOING MORE AND MORE, BUT SOME STILL PREFER THE ROCKING CHAIR

OLD GUYS are wearing me out. They keep pulling off impossible athletic feats, wonderful things that are supposed to be an inspiration to geezers all over the world.

Every time another old fogey is exhumed and wins something, newspapers and television tell the soft-bodied, the short-winded, the gray-thatched that the game of life begins at 47 or 52 or some other outlandish birthday. Then I get fired up about all kinds of sports and want to run or jump or throw something.

Except for boxing. I draw the line at fighters. When I read that George Foreman still is knocking over stiffs at age 42, I don't want to go out and whup anybody. No, when I see Foreman's name, I gain three pounds.

When I read that even Jerry Quarry is trying to make a comeback I don't get the urge to find Ali and let him beat me up. No, when I see Quarry's name, my eyebrows begin to bleed.

The crocks in the other sports are the problem.

At 43, Nolan Ryan throws his sixth no-hitter and media types wax rhapsodic over the enormous psychological boost he has given golden-agers. I read all those stories and ran out to buy a baseball glove.

Then I remembered -- at the peak of my prowess I had a rag arm.

Ryan's longevity wouldn't help me blow a high hard one past the best athlete in the family, my 8-year-old granddaughter, Danielle.

At 45, Hale Irwin wins the U.S. Open Golf Championship and the same anti-aging evangelists proclaim him the best thing that has happened to the old and infirm since Lourdes. I read all those stories and ran out in the garage to dust off my clubs.

Then I remembered -- I hate golf. On the best day of my life I couldn't break 120. The only positive thing a 2-iron ever did for me was stake tomatoes.

When Kareem Abdul Jabbar began his endless, gift-collecting farewell tour, closing out his career in the National Basketball Association, he was hailed for his antiquity as much as his sky hook.

I was so inspired I decided to master the whirling, look-Ma-two-hands, in-my-own-face gorilla dunk.

Then I remembered -- I'm 18 inches shorter than Kareem. Sure, standing flat-footed, I'm deadly from six feet inside the foul line if you leave me alone and there's no pressure. But, no matter how old Kareem gets, I'm still 5-foot-8 and sinking in elevator sneaks.

This kind of thing is not new. People have been writing and exclaiming about the miraculous durability of Jack Nicklaus for the past decade. I think I've finally come to terms with his Fountain of Youth story. Now, when I hear about the Golden Bear, I want to take a four-month nap.

Before Nicklaus, it was George Blanda and Hoyt Wilhelm.

At 102, give or take a decade, George was kicking field goals in the National Football League and Hoyt was striking out major-league hitters with his knuckleball. They were supposed to be role models for everybody born in the Roaring '20s.

Well, I'm tired of being inspired. Leave me alone. The elderly who are still active, who can still play whatever it is they play, do. Those who never could, still can't and never will.

Look at golf. The Earth is crowded with wrinkled codgers who can play the game with a degree of skill. A few of them are making big money on the pros' senior tour. Many others are making small but satisfying money hustling their condo neighbors.

They don't care what Irwin or Nicklaus or the ghost of Bobby Jones does. I don't, either.

If Whistler's Mother wins the Masters, I don't want any putting tips. I want her rocking chair.

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