The ‘Vinsanity’ of Turning Thirty

Updated: January 7, 2011

“7 or 8 years ago, Kobe vs. T-Mac & Kobe vs. VC on back2back nights would be highlight of season. Now, just makes us all feel old” –J.A. Adande

When I was eighteen I could run through walls, literally. Tried it once with a pillow to cushion the face, despite a minor scratch at the lip, I still had the baby face of Ashton Kutcher.

Twenty-one: Drink (or drank to the hipsters) enough beer to shave the heads of an entire barley field. In fact challenged a group of Aussie’s to a game of chug until you hurl–hurled, but hurled last.

Twenty-five: Two-a-days, party, two-a-days. This body was “not a tuma.” I was mistaken numerous times for Ronnie Coleman, but without the tan.

Now at twenty-nine, with a bum shoulder, a chronic upset stomach, and a bout with the crypt dealer’s aches and pains, reality has set in. I’ve seen mortality for what she is…a bitch. My parties consist of a .99 Red Box film and a game of Cranium. My sluggish workouts emulate the chiseled physique of Chris Farley. Last I checked, my game is a blend between Charles Barkley, ’99, Houston Rockets, and the ballet like movements of a Will Perdue.

I’ve pulled my groin and complained.

Write poetry.

Listen to NPR.

Cry on demand.

Watch American Idol.

In 1998, Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison were like Batman and Robin in the Carolina blue. Nobody could keep up. Carter was second on the team in scoring but first in the world in dunking. His chiseled 6’7 frame was a concoction of both Adonis and the likes of a human gazelle. Then came rookie of the year, 30 point nights, dunks on Zo and Ewing nobody can forget, and the posters, posters, posters. He was the heir apparent, the wheel barrow of the NBA carrying its fruits: popularity, the bens, the looks, the swag.  For a five to six-year span he was the king of Canada. He carried his lowly Raptors to three playoff appearances, one in ’01 that ended in seven in the Conference Semi Finals.  This was enough to make my old man admit to his greatness. During that epic bout, my dad and I crooned over a course of beer. When the game ended my dad admitted, “For a moment the man was a better George Gervin.” And though I found the like comparison off in the way they played, it seemed he’d just transcended himself all the more, by winning over old school fellows like my dad who resent the new look of the NBA.  Without a doubt, in that period of time, the greatness conversations revolved around 1. Kobe 2. VC 3. Iverson.

But then came the body’s alarm clock. The knees gave. The dunks became fewer. Carter got hurt and he, Grant Hill, and Penny Hardaway became the sob stories of the NBA. In 2005, VC played twenty games and averaged a mediocre 15.9 points, both career lows. His passion seemed lost. The smile was enveloped by a saggy look of depression, and he was dealt to the Nets. After four forgettable seasons in Jersey, Carter spent one in Orlando, and now, has been sent to end his career in the vast wasteland of Arizona.  It can’t get more ironically metaphorical that, can it? He will most certainly be waiting tables at Hall of Fame ceremonies.

Last night, I sat at a friend’s house sipping another friend’s wine talking sports, love, and life. My friend and I talked of good old days like two old men on a porch swing of memories. The sad part of it was we’re just twenty-nine going on thirty. And yet, the bodies have changed. We no longer have the ability to out drink, out ball, out game the world. We are simple: married and working men. Our lives revolve around that quiet hustle. We’re the M.C. Hammers of the rap world.

When I was thirteen, I collected posters, and each resembled a bit of my character and child-like dreams. Alex Rodriguez, thin and frail, but humble and pure, swung a bat, while David Robinson slapped a ball like a human fly swatter into the stands. Charles Barkley graced my wall with his smooth, undefined arms, and Kathy Ireland, smiled from my ceiling wearing a turtle neck and high water jeans. My favorite of these, was a game time still of MJ in 1989, dunking over Craig Ehlo. MJ is classically methodical, beautiful, and stunning in his athletic pose, while Ehlo is clearly the antithesis of such. His face is strained; in pain. He’s hit his max vertical of twenty inches. The coiling arm pit hairs of his greatness, stuff his nose like a burrito. And yet, when I think back, though Ehlo was out played by MJ (shoot, everyone was), he was a class act, and to be honest, a better shooter.

I guess with age comes great responsibility, or wait, was that power?  Doesn’t matter, point is made.

–Luke Johnson