From the Archives: Little Sports Accomplishments for the Modern Fathlete

Originally published July 10, 2021

Man, 100 pounds ago I was really something. I could dunk a basketball, easily. I could run fast and my hand-eye coordination was better and my sports accomplishments were normally a product of athleticism. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not claiming I was some gladiator, but I played sports and worked out a lot and I was pretty athletic.

But these day, not so much. Sure, I play golf and I’m trying to convince myself that darts is an actual sport, but other than that I’m just another washed up fathlete. What’s a “fathlete”? That’s a former athlete who is also now in terrible shape. Optional: they can be a father. F for “former.” F for “fat.” F for “father.” Add that F to “athlete” and you got fathlete.

And nothing is more satisfying to a fathlete like feeling like they’ve accomplished a task thought only possible by a fitter man. However, because actual athletic accomplishments are unlikely, we as fathletes need to broaden the definition with these less orthodox feats of athleticism.

1. 18 Holes with One Ball

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Shut up. Don’t make this gross. This is a PG-13 blog we run, here. Despite what your stupid eighth-grade brain just told you, 18 holes with one ball is in fact a legitimate athletic accomplishment. If you play a round of golf without losing a single ball, that’s impressive. That’s a great thing. That’s something worth bragging about in the clubhouse after the round. If a man tells me he shot a 79 but lost two balls, and another man tells me he shot a 79 but did not lose a ball, the second guy had the better round. I’ve probably played 120 rounds of golf in my life and I’ve one-balled maybe twice or three times, and each one came with that same excitement I used to get after dunking.

2. Not the Oldest Shoes at the Gym

73-Year-Old Declared Ineligible - The New York Times

One of the first times I ever felt really old was when I was in law school. I was a 25-year-old first-year law student and I went to the rec center one day before classes started and tried to get a basketball game or two in. I found a game but quickly noticed that not only were my shoes the oldest ones on the floor, but I hated the style of the new shoes the kids were wearing. It was devastating, and so I made it a personal goal to never have the oldest shoes in any given gym. I think that means I can safely update every three and a half years, which seems fair. But whenever I see a pickup game that I’m thinking about joining, I always look to make sure I won’t have the oldest shoes there.

3. Bringing Gatorade to the Game

You really should focus on staying hydrated. For whatever reason it takes more hydration to get me through a day now. Worse still is the fact that I can generally tell pretty quickly when I’m getting dehydrated. That’s why I always take a big Gatorade with me when I’m participating in sports. Doesn’t matter the sport. Golf, basketball, racquetball, tennis, whatever. I always take a big ol’ Gatorade and I consider it a good thing if I’ve drunk the whole thing by the time I’m leaving. You see, all the big-name guys have commercials where they cool off by holding a cold Gatorade to their face, and so by staying hydrated, you’re basically doing what the pros do. They need to refuel after a long penalty-kill shift, and you need it because you had stir fry for dinner then tried to play HORSE in your driveway. But it’s still the same need to hydrate.

4. Bringing a Change of Clothes With You

PHOTOS: Here Are the Crazy Outfits the NBA Superstars Wore After Game One  of the NBA Finals

If you watch sports on TV, you’ll know that oftentimes a player will give a press conference after the event is over. Generally speaking, the team sports (basketball, football, baseball, etc.) normally have the press conferences long enough after the game such that some of the players have showered and changed out of their uniforms. Conclusion: to feel like a real athlete, you gotta change clothes after the game. Probably not a full change, but just like a different shirt so you don’t get the car all sweaty. And maybe a towel? Something else. The point is if you change clothes after the game, you’re emulating the big guys, and that feels special.

[Editor’s Note: When I was looking for a picture to accompany this paragraph I absentmindedly Googled “people getting changed at the gym” and let me tell y’all, there’re some real creeps on the Internet]

5. Making a Routine Defensive Play

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If you’re in your thirties and playing basketball at a rec center, you’re probably playing with a lot of folks younger than you. Same goes for other sports like soccer or softball or whatever. No matter the sport, you’re the geezer playing with the youngsters. And for whatever reason, nothing impresses the youngsters more than a geezer making a routine defensive play. In basketball this would be a blocked shot or maybe a good pickpocket steal. In softball we’re talking about a diving catch or a long throw from short to first. For soccer it’s probably faking and injury and doing that thing where you slide on your knees forever. I don’t know, soccer sucks. The point is that by making one of these routine defensive plays, you will impress the youths playing with you and feel that spark of athletic prowess once again.

6. Not Being Sore

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This one gets rarer and rarer every year for me. The goal is simple: compete in as single occurrence of a slower, less-abrasive version of a game you used to play six times per weekend and wakeup without any soreness. It sounds so straightforward. I mean, right? Like, how hard could that be? What do I gotta do, stretch some? Drink some Pedialyte? Maybe “know my limits”? Get the hell outta here with that crap. I used to do this a lot, you know, and I think I know my own body, thank you. But then you will wake to realize how wrong you were, and suddenly the oddest things like undoing your fly so you can take a leak will cause severe pain in your upper back. I’ll be straight with y’all: I haven’t experienced this one in years. Years. Plural of “year.” Ugh. Age is the worst.

7. Using the 16-Pound Ball

When was the last time you went bowling? I love bowling. I used to bowl a lot in law school because it was cheap and was a great way to relieve stress through a physical medium while also being able to drink a pitcher of Miller Lite. I know my limits. If I want to bowl more than two games, I use the 14-pounder. But using the 16-pound ball still makes me feel like a stud. Especially if it’s a strike. Holy crap, if I roll a strike with the big dog, I start doing that same weird dance Bill Murray does in Kingpin (find it at about the 20-second mark below). But you have to use the 16-pounder, especially if another fathlete is in your group and he’s using one. And sometimes one of the ladies you’re with will try to pick it up and comment on how heavy it is. That’s the stuff. That’s how you can feel like the athlete you once were.

Honorable Mentions

I want to mention a few other little sports moments that also help rekindle the athletic flame in so many fathletes out there:

  • Randomly playing catch with a baseball with another full-grown man;
  • Buying a round of drinks from the beer cart girl;
  • Finding a baseball bat somewhere, taking a few half-assed swings, and saying, “Gosh, I don’t even remember the last time I swung a baseball bat”;
  • Beating your children relatives (kids, nieces, grandkids, etc.) at HORSE;
  • Picking your golf ball up by driving the cart by it as fast as you dare then leaning out of the still-moving cart and scooping the ball up like an infielder;
  • Slide-tackling that meathead who’s been jawing all night at your over-30 indoor soccer league;
  • Catching a pop-up in foul territory for the out;
  • A behind-the-back dribble when that kid half your age who’s been telegraphing his steal attempt lunges at you;
  • Celebrating winning your church league with a nice, family-friendly “YES!”; and
  • Chewing sunflower seeds.

Have a great week, everyone.

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