Men and women tackle the thought of aging very differently. Most think that women are affected by aging more than men. That is actually false. We just come to the realization of our aging and mortality in very different ways.

In general, men are able to ignore their mirror’s truths and warnings more than women. Men can ignore the impending grey, receding hairlines and ever enlarging waistlines. Ignore may be too strong a word, replaced by an unhealthy dose of denial instead. Men can invoke denial in part because of the reaction or lack of reaction that they receive from these tell tale signings of aging.

Men tease each other for sure, but the teasing is generally lighthearted and good natured. Regardless, most men do not take to heart the comments from other men. Perhaps its just a healthy form of defensive denial, but you learn from high school to get over the sensitivity around other men. Men may make occasional jokes at other’s expense, but a brotherhood sparked by reality is usually the more common ground that men share with each other as they get older. So what is the actual catalyst for that reality if not the mirror and words and opinions of others? Sports!

Whether you are a self styled athlete, and for men that comes in many different forms; former professional, semi-pro, college participant, high school star (or even participant), current JCC league player… every man that has participated in some type of sporting activity in which there was a referee (and calling your own fouls counts), considers himself an athlete. The inability to still participate and perform at the level that your mind believes you should be at is the first tell tale sign for aging.

Injuries are always a part of sports participation. With the advent of technology and improvements in medical techniques, I cannot say that injuries take longer to heal as we get older, in fact it may be shorter. However, our concepts and value of time is different as we age. Jobs, parenthood and other responsibilities of life make overcoming injuries more burdensome and stressful as we get older. The reality is as we get older, we are also more susceptible to injuries, in part because we may be asking our bodies to perform tasks and at levels that it is not as conditioned to do as when we once played ball for 2-3 hours a day.

Besides the physical signs of aging that men get from their participation in sporting activities, the changing landscape of each passing professional season is usually a big indicator for men for years passing by. Another opening day of Major League Baseball is upon us. Even if you are not are big MLB fan, the new season still supplies a casual connection for how men process aging. Alex Rodriguez is now an analyst. Love him or hate him, even the most casual MLB fan knows who he is. He played for 22 years, beginning in 1994 and for those that remember him playing as a rookie and now retired, it is a stark reminder of years gone by.

NBA fans experience it as well. Long tenured players in the league often are the benchmark for people understanding their place in generational differences. If you saw Kobe play all twenty years in the league, it is a reminder of your own aging process. Talk to a younger generation who only vaguely remember Michael Jordan’s later years, the reminder is even greater. Want to feel old to younger people, start reminiscing about the Showtime Los Angeles Laker era and the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird Rivalry.

Sports provides for men the real signs of aging and time passing. Our diminishing physical abilities are one element combined with seeing athletes that we once followed retire and become old in conversation and reality to others is that additional reminder to men that is more a punch to the gut regarding aging and mortality than the actual amassing of the very real gut that is more obvious and enduring.

Men and women are different. Yet, as different as we may appear on the surface, we are often affected by the same issues. We just may arrive at the destinations in different ways.



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