Daily Archives: August 17, 2009

Thirty-four

MichaelAge5

So I turned 34 on Monday.

Not really a big birthday, landmark-wise. Not close enough to 30 to feel that I’m in my early 30’s, but not close enough to 40 to start freaking out about that big number.

The biggest things that hit me about 34 were this: I’m now twice as old as the typical high school senior, and I’m in the last year of that coveted advertising demographic of 18-34. I know, thrilling.

I always used to get pretty depressed a few days before my birthday; I’d go into a little bit of a funk as I thought about another year gone down the drain.

I’m as optimistic a person as you will ever find (well OK, maybe Richard Simmons and Dick Vitale are cheerier than me), but around August 12 of every year I would get sad. “I haven’t done this yet,” or “I’m only this far along in my career,” all that stuff would bounce around my cranium like a ping-pong ball.

I’ve gotten better about that over the years, starting with my birthday in 2004  (I had a girlfriend then, so that probably was the big difference), but I still get a little bit melancholy.

I look back and ask myself: Is this where I thought I would be by now? Shouldn’t I have done X, Y, and Z by this point in my life? And am I ever going to achieve my dream of working for Sports Illustrated?

It’s not a good way to think, to always be browbeating yourself about what you have and haven’t accomplished, and I do my best to knock those thoughts out of my head when they come in.

I keep telling myself it’s not a race, that there’s no finish line, and that no one who really matters is keeping score of what I have and haven’t done. A long time ago I realized that I have what many others don’t, and that there will always be others with more than me.

Looking around inside my brain today (I like to browse from time to time), I saw a loving wife who will be my true companion until we’re old and gray. I heard from my wonderful parents, who despite their divorce 20 years ago (geez, has it been 20 years?) remain close friends. I heard from the best in-laws a person could ever hope to have.

I glimpsed fantastic and trustworthy friends, some who I’ve known literally since birth, and who now have kids of their own (I’m still having trouble processing that Marc, Tracie and Andrew, three people who knew me when I looked like I did up in that picture, have kids of their own now).

I have a job doing what I love to do, in an industry filled with people determined to keep raging against the dying of the ink.

I get to tell stories of great heroism and courage, and expose shameless liars and crooks, and make a small difference in people’s lives. That’s a damn special thing to get to do every day.

When I’m no longer able to or allowed to do that, it’ll be a hell of a sad time.

The roadmap of my life has brought me here, to this point, and I have to admit: It’s a wonderful view.

Thirty-four will be wonderful, because I’m truly blessed.

Now 40? That scares the hell out of me.

P.S. I think I still have that belt in that picture up there. Boy did I love that belt. And you notice how the socks match the sneakers? In the words of Kevin Spacey from “American Beauty,” that was not an accident.

Michael Vick on “60 Minutes:” I believe him. Also, Usain Bolt is crazy fast.

 Vick14_173701gm-a

It’s always dangerous to look into another man’s heart. (I’ve also learned it’s dangerous to tell a woman she has too many pairs of shoes, to ask a rampaging bull to kindly slow down, and to cut a dinner roll with a huge, sharp knife. But I digress).

We don’t ever really know what’s going on in somebody’s head, what their motives are, and if someone who has committed some truly awful crimes is really repentant.

As a fairly cynical sportswriter, I feel like I have a pretty good “phony” radar for athletes. It goes off every time Terrell Owens or Kobe Bryant speaks, for example.

But watching Michael Vick on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, I’ve gotta say that I was truly impressed. I thought Vick came across as sincere, humble, and pretty broken up about what he had done.

Now, I’m sure he was coached by his p.r. people. But I think there was too much real emotion on display for it to be all fake. I liked when James Brown (who did a surprisingly good job as the interviewer; boy would I have liked to see Mike Wallace grill Vick) asked the disgraced dog-fighting kingpin whose fault all his problems were.

“I blame me,”Vick said … “I deserved to lose the $130 million (NFL contract).”

“Yeah, I deserve to lose it,” Vick continued. I deserve to lose the $130 million. Why would a guy who was making a $130 million and, you know, on the flip side, you know, killing dogs or doing the wrong things, why would– you know, he don’t — he don’t deserve it.”

I also was watching Vick’s face closely while Brown read off some of the horrendous details of what Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels did to the poor animals. Vick seemed to be visibly wincing. I got the feeling that every time he relives what he did to the dogs, he feels pain. Which is very good, because he should feel pain.

Vick talked a lot about the “disgust” he felt about himself, and for the entire interview he seemed like a guy who knew just how royally he screwed up his life.

I understand that there are a lot of people who don’t think the ex-Falcons quarterback should’ve gotten a chance to play in the NFL again. But this America, and we give people second chances.

I have no idea if Michael Vick will really do everything he can to educate black and rural kids that dogfighting is wrong, and they should steer clear of it. But he deserves the opportunity to prove that prison changed him, and so far, he seems like a different man.

Good for him if he really has changed. He can do so much more good after falling from grace than he ever could’ve done when he was on top of the mountain.

Couple other thoughts on the “60 Minutes,” piece, whose transcript is here.

**I thought James Brown did an outstanding job, journalistically; much better than I was expecting.

** The most revealing part of the piece for me was when Vick talked about how, as a little kid, he saw dogfighting and thought it was OK. And that opinion was reinforced when, he recalled, some local policemen in Virginia pulled up to a dogfight one night, got out of their cars, then drove away.

In no way shape or form is it an excuse, but kids learn what they see at that age. 

P.S. Hell of a day in sports Sunday, on the whole. Usain Bolt, who is so fast he makes lightning look slow, set a new world record by running a 9.58 in the 100 meter dash in Berlin. That’s .009 seconds faster than Bolt’s old world record, which is a huge gap in a small race like this. (By the way, is there a more perfect name for a sprinter than “Bolt?”). This kid from Jamaica is making a mockery of all past sprinters; he’s just on a whole different playing field than anyone, ever, in his event.

Check out the incredible Bolt race here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0wmR3gic5I

 And although I loathe golf with all my being, I see Tiger Woods was chased down from behind by someone named Y.E. Yang and blew the PGA Championships on Sunday. Mr. Woods shot a 75, and Yang shot a 70.
 

 

Tiger Woods getting caught from behind in the last round of a major? Never happened before, and may never happen again.

One more reason sports is the greatest reality television of all time.