Life as the Ninth Inning Nears

My interest in sports has narrowed. No more hockey or boxing. But baseball is forever.

By Fay Vincent 

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Photo: Getty Images/iStock


One of the many problems with advancing age—not old age, please—is there is too much to read about the end of life. Books and articles about dying are in vogue, but I could not finish Dr. Atul Gawande’s best-selling “Being Mortal.” I do not want to know how much my brain is shrinking and why my teeth will fall out. Spare me.

I am comforted by the realization that everyone is getting older and so we are all in the same boat. My contemporaries share my experiences, and they have the same fears and many of the same limitations as I do.

I am still excited by good books, and I try to persuade others to read what has thrilled me. But many of us do not want to be pushed. We prefer to discover good books on our own.

My interest in sports—baseball, of course—remains strong, though it is narrower than it used to be. I no longer watch hockey or boxing. But I never miss the World Series, or the Masters, in part because of the captivating natural beauty of the Augusta golf course. Despite a football lineage—my dad was an NFL official—I rarely watch the second half of the Super Bowl. The games are too long, and half-time shows are a bizarre reminder of music I do not understand.

Why is there so much jumping up and down?

I spend most of my time in the company of my cherished wife. I think there is truth in the old line that older marrieds tend to resemble each other as time goes by. I enjoy visits with friends as well, but I have a rule: None of us can speak more than three sentences about medical news.

I am certain my problems have limited interest, and so, I fib a lot when I am asked how I am doing.

To me, old age seems to be the art of keeping going. Speed and direction are not important.

Movement is. I swim but slowly. I barely walk. I write, but with acute knowledge that my values and opinions are outdated. I still think duty, honor and country should be the national mantra. I know better.

The very best thing about growing older is that I no longer try to change anyone’s mind. I can easily accept disagreement from friends and even critics. I also have long since surrendered any hope of impressing others, or of being impressed by them. In these final innings I want to stay at bat, even if I know I cannot expect to get a hit.

I am not selling anything nor am I buying. I want only to be at peace and in normal discomfort. Age makes life simple until it does not.

Yes, the rear view mirror is where I get the most pleasure. There I can run and jump and shag high fly balls in the many sunny baseball fields of my youth. There are still those joyful memories of good times and old pals and long dead family and friends. That is what is left now, and that has to be fine with me.


Mr. Vincent was formerly CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries, executive vice president of Coca-Cola, and the commissioner of Major League Baseball, 1989-92.

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