tom jones' two cents
If you have been following the headlines of late, you have seen that old-timers just don't play in old-timer games anymore. They play in real games. And they play them well. Seems as if 45 might be the new 35. Here's a look at some of the old guys we still root for. And with the way they are playing, it's easy to root for them. Take a look.
When you see the Czech superstar shifting, cutting, dancing and dipping all over the ice, you can't help but have flashbacks to the 18-year-old rookie who helped the Penguins win a Stanley Cup in 1990-91. Then you realize the guy is now 40. The only thing missing is he no longer sports that rad mullet that used to drip down his back onto his No. 68. The former five-time NHL scoring leader and one-time MVP (he should've won a couple of more MVPs) spent the past three seasons in Russia, and there was a question as to whether he had anything left when he returned to the Flyers this season. Hovering near 20 goals answered that question.
When Moyer won his first major-league game with the Cubs in 1986 against Steve Carlton and the Phillies, the team he now pitches for (the Colorado Rockies) didn't even exist. In fact, they were seven years away from playing a game. What's stunning is Moyer, who has won 267 big-league games, missed all of last season with Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, but he earned a spot in the Rockies rotation with an impressive spring. Moyer becomes the first 49-year-old major-leaguer since Julio Franco in 2007 and, get this, the first 49-year-old pitcher since Hoyt Wilhelm in 1972. What's more is it has been 20 years since Moyer was released by the Cubs.
Okay, while we are very impressed by Moyer pitching in the big leagues at age 49, we are absolutely blown away by Vizquel playing middle infield at his age. Vizquel, one of the finest gloves the game has ever seen, turns 45 this month. He will be a utility player for the Blue Jays in what will be his 24th major-league season. One of his teammates, Brett Lawrie, wasn't even born when Vizquel broke into the majors.
You could make an argument that Lidstrom is the second-best defenseman in NHL history, behind only the great Bobby Orr. But even now, Lidstrom, who turns 42 this month, remains one of the best blue-liners in the game. This season, for the first time in his career, the Red Wings star missed a good chunk of time with an injury. Still, his numbers in the games he has played showed there is little, if any, dropoff in his game. He still dictates the pace as well as anyone. He isn't going to be named the league's top defenseman. But if you were drafting a team to play Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, you would give serious consideration to making Lidstrom the first defenseman you picked.
If you watched this year's NCAA basketball tournament, you saw a lot of flashbacks as college fans celebrated the 20th anniversary of the great region final between Duke and Kentucky that ended with Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater. Then you remember that it was Hill who made the pass. Now, 20 years later, Hill, 39, is still playing in the NBA. He has spent time with the Pistons, Magic and Suns. What should have been a Hall of Fame career was sabotaged by injuries. Even so, he is approaching 1,000 games and, for his career, has averaged 17 points per game. He has remained healthy since joining Phoenix in 2007 and continues to be a double-digit-a-game scorer. And he happens to be one of the nicest and classiest athletes of all time.
The longtime NFL kicker is 42. So what, you say, he's just a kicker. Oh yeah? Well, if it were so easy to make millions by kicking a football, why don't more 40-somethings do it? Kasay kicked last season for the Saints, making 28 of 34 field goals and all 63 extra points. He isn't assured of a job next season, but don't you get the feeling that he will be kicking somewhere at some point?
There are plenty of coaches/managers who are long in the tooth. The Tigers' Jim Leyland might be the best manager in baseball right now and he's 67. The Phillies' Charlie Manuel has done as good of a job as anyone in baseball over the past several years and he's 68. But let's take a look at Nationals manager Johnson, who is 69. Geez, isn't that hard to believe? He played for the Orioles against the Miracle Mets in 1969. He was the manager when the Mets last won a World Series in 1986. And now he's in charge of leading the up-and-coming Nationals.
We have to recognize a couple of broadcasters on this list, starting with Brent Musburger. Bet you didn't realize that Musburger turns 73 next month. He might be a better broadcaster now than he was 35 years ago when he was hosting CBS's The NFL Today with Jimmy the Greek, Irv Cross and Phyllis George. (Wow, doesn't that take you back?) These days, Musburger is ABC's No. 1 voice for college football, as well as one of ESPN's top play-by-play announcers for college hoops. Meantime, how about ABC/ESPN NBA analyst Hubie Brown? He is 78 and still has the passion and enthusiasm of a broadcaster half his age, yet he brings twice the knowledge. And even though the former coach is fast approaching 80, Brown is among the best analysts on TV.
It's difficult to decide which is harder to believe, that Nash is 38 years old or that he is leading the NBA, by far, in assists. Probably the former. The Suns point guard still plays with the same gusto and energy that he had when he won back-to-back MVP awards in 2005-06. There are whispers that Nash has a bad back that is getting worse by the season, but he has missed only four games this season and is averaging more than 11 assists. And he isn't close to being done. Some are guessing that he will end up with the Heat next season.