When Fr Time taps you

 It happens to everyone, Father Time taps you on the shoulder. Often then,you “slip” just a bit. It’s true in the work world and in the sports world. But…tremendous athletes keep trying with a few succeeding but most falling to Father Time’s tap on their shoulder.
… the soccer world was shaking recently, Cristiano Ronaldo-the 5x Player of the Year, has returned to Manchester United for next season. He’s considered by many as the best player in the world and commonly regarded as one of the greatest players of all time! Ronaldo carries in a sparkling resume. He’s scored 109 Internationals Goals and 134 Goals for Manchester United in the premier European league. His 109 are 14 more than his closet #2. Further he holds the league record for Assists with 42. In addition, he’s durable, he’s just 1 game shy of the record of 177 games in competition. It goes on & on..he’s been incredible. Logically then,  Ronaldo was ranked the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes in 2016 and 2017 and the world’s most famous athlete by ESPN from 2016 to 2019. It’s all overwhelming! All the Manchester United fans went berserk! He didn’t come cheap. His salary will be $30m for the year after paying $27m to acquire him. The only “odds” that I see as a possible battle would be his age. Ronaldo is 36 years old competing in a game that requires bursts of speed, endless stamina, sometimes soft, sometime rocket touches of the ball.  Sooo….what is the only hurdle to jump—his age of 36. It seems that most of the current 36+ age  stars of the European league are keepers not field players.
…Some superstar athletes of all professional sports HAVE ignored the touches of Father Time at 36. At age 36, Stan the Man led the National League in batting with a .351 mark. He belted out 29 HR, 102 RBI’s held a league leading OBP of .422 and also led the league in OPS with a startling 1.034 mark! But, that was Stan’s last major production year. He declined slowly each year until his retirement at 42 years of age. 
….at age 36 Babe Ruth was still at the top of his game. This is a bit surprising since Babe was NEVER known for taking care of his body!   Babe led league in Home Runs (46),RBI’s (128), OB%  (.495), slugging (.700),  OB% (1.195), times on base (328). But…that would be the last year that Babe led the league in many of those categories.
…in more recent times and in a more physical sport than baseball, Tom Brady led the Patriots to the Conference Championship before losing to Denver when he was 36. In the Patriots system, Brady was seldom a league leader in passing categories. Yet..that year Brady completed 60.5% of his passes, 4343 yards with 1197 snaps. BTW….Brady will be starting this season as a 44 year old QB!
… in the NBA, a 36 year superstar still excels on the Lakers —LeBron James! Granted, he’s no longer the power-forward (now he’s a guard) but he’s there every night! LeBron will finish this season with 26.0 points, 9.4 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game. Further, LeBron has played in all 45 games, averaging 33.4 min/game. Those are really exceptional for ANY player of any age. Remember, LeBron began his NBA career at 19 years of age! 
…at age 36, Gordie Howe was a long way away from the touches of Father Time. As a 36 year old, he played 70 regulation games with 29 goals & 47 assists for Detroit and was an All-Star. Amazingly, Howe continued playing until he was 51 years old in 1979-80 for Hartford.
….But, some athletes do feel the effects of Father Time and some fell off badly after competing beyond 36 years of age. Willie Mays batted .263 as a 36 year old, played 6 more years and sadly batted .211 as a 42 year old in 1973. Michael Jordan retired for 3 years (while 36) then returned for 2 more years. While he was good as an NBA player after his “retirement”, he wasn’t the same.
 …Currently in the 36 to 36+ category of MLB players, Father Time’s touch has left a variety of performance levels—as you would expect. Adam Wainwright & Yadi Molina are two of the premier 36+ performers.  It seems to me… that older players rise to the occasion when they are performing for better teams. They play with emotionto…and that pushes them on to higher levels of play.. For example, 36 year old Max Scherzer has risen up a level since the Dodgers obtained him. He’s 4-0, ERA of 1.55 in 5 starts. His WHIP of .828 is at the lowest point of his career!   Another 36 year old Dodger, Justin Turner, has been called the most consistent batter of the year for LA. He’s hitting .278, 21 HR, 70 rbi, OPs-.837. 37 year old Joey Votto has been a vital ingredient of the Red’s offense this year. He’s driving them towards a possible playoff with a .278 batting mark & 28 dingers after batting .226 last year on a more pedestrian Cincy team last year.  
…At 41 years of age,  Father Time has definitely left his baggage with Albert Pujols in recent years. However being traded to a contender seems to have been the antidote for Father Time’s touch. He’s batting ,258, 10 HR –-not like his premier Cardinal days but good considering the amount of playing time. Interestingly, Albert seemed to have his glory years end at 30 years old in 2010! Since that time, he’s never batted .300, hit 40 HR just once, never held a OBP of .400, never slugged .600, or had an OPS over 1.000. His last year as a Cardinal was 2011 when he slipped (just barely) below .300 for the first time…maybe the Cards sensed Father Time’s touch? Who knows, I think it was more the 10 year contract offered by the Angels that was the clinching blow…I think if it had been 5 or 6 years, the Cards would have matched it, even with Father Time’s shadow over Albert.
…However, the most of the athletes listed above (including Ronaldo) are set apart from the norm. These are exceptional athletes whose decline was much slower than most athletes. Ronaldo faces some different hurdles than many of the athletes listed above. He will be called upon to have enough speed, endurance and the split second “moves” with his legs that separated him from the norm. Soccer demands much more of your legs than some sports. Granted, he IS of a different breed from the norm(like many of the athletes listed above), but nonetheless, those will be the Father Time challenges for him like any other 36 year old player.  Ronaldo probably WILL have some more very good years…how many?  That’s the question.
…Now if you’re 36 or older, don’t let Father Time slow down YOUR response 😊 I’m interested in your thoughts. Post them on this site or on my Facebook page (Bob Ryan) or just send them to me in an email (rjryansr@charter.net). Thanks for the read!  Bob 

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