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Daze of My Life: I'm Older Than Larry Bird

Daze of My Life
I'm Older Than Larry Bird

I was reminded of that fact while watching NBA Basketball on TNT one Friday night a few months back. The game was between the defending NBA Champion, San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz, nothing really to do with Larry Bird. Nevertheless, early in the second quarter, the play-by-play announcer offered up the fact that Dec. 7th was Larry Bird's 51st birthday. Then a few highlights of his Hall-of-Fame career were shown, one in particular I remember, when the Boston Celtics were playing the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Eastern Conference finals in 1987. Bird stole the in-bounds pass from Isiah Thomas and quickly passed it to D.J., (Dennis Johnson) for a time-expiring, game-winning, lay up. I'll never forget that moment. Nor will I forget calling WEEI the next day, the local radio station in Boston that broadcast the Celtic's games in the 80s, hoping to hear a replay of the actual radio call by the legendary Johnny Most, longtime voice of the Celtics, "Broadcasting high above court side." (Living in Maryland at the time, it was the only thing a self-respecting Celtic fan could do. And I did hear the call. It was my generation's "Havliceck stole the ball!" It was magnificent.)
And I also remember, not the actual moment, more like the actual realization, that I was in fact older than Larry Bird, which was somewhat shocking. When you're a "sports guy," like I am, and a loyal and devoted fan of your local/ home-town teams, as many of us "born, bred and buttered" New Englanders are, you hold your teams' stars in such reverence and high esteem that hero-worship becomes part of your routine, followed soon thereafter by the players ascension to deity-like status. And as a deity, of course you have nothing in common with them, especially their age. They're larger than life, your life or anybody else's life you know, so they can't be all that and younger than you, too. How can you look up to somebody who age-wise, is looking up at you? It's not logical.
Besides, you've been following their career (in this example, Larry Bird's) for over 20 years; from the beginning of his college career at Indiana State University, to the Celtic's drafting of him a year earlier than he was eligible to play in the NBA, to his Rookie-of-the-Year award, to his Three NBA Championships and to his selection to the "Dream Team," the first collection of NBA players to compete in the Olympics; he's been playing forever and now he's ready to retire. I haven't been playing forever and I'm not ready to retire, how can I be older than him?
More so when you consider all the super human, amazing sports things you've seem him do. And amazing doesn't even begin to scratch the service of his Boston Celtic sport's accomplishments. Larry Bird (like so many other sports figures in Boston, past and present: Ted Williams, Bobby Orr, Bill Russell, Tom Brady, David Ortiz, to name a few) is an icon and one doesn't consider icons, at least I didn't, as youthful or younger than me. Out of respect, appreciation, familiarity, years of support, etc., whatever, I just figured that Larry Joe Bird, for as long as he's been in my sport's consciousness, just has to be older than me. But he's not, confirmed by TNT, and boy do I feel old.
How can your hero being younger than you? Someone who means so much to you and who has meant so much to your own personal history and memories has to be older than you, he's been around longer. I thought all historical figures, by their definition almost, had to be older, as in they've already been and since you haven't already been, you have to be younger, right?. But apparently, that's not always the case. Apparently, some are younger, like Larry Bird. Who would have thought?

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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