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Age has different meaning in today's world of sports

By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
June 5, 2004
Three weeks ago, Mike Powell would have been thought of as crazy.
Powell, who is 40 years old, is trying to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team as a long-jumper.
That's right, the dude is 40 as in FOUR-OH. As in over the hill. As in ready to be put out to pasture. As in there is no room left on the cake for your candles. You get the point.
The advanced-age jumper knows he is facing an up-hill climb to qualify for the team going to Athens.
Athletes of advanced age have awoken in large numbers this year, which make Powell's leap for the U.S. team seemingly feasible.
Atlanta Braves ageless wonder Julio Franco just hit a grand slam on Thursday night.
A grand slam is really just another home run made memorable by a fancy name and three teammates getting on base in front of a batter, but at 45 years old, Franco's slam made history.
He is now in the record books of baseball along side Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and the like.
Franco beat Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk by two years to become the oldest grand slam hitter in history. Fisk homered with the bases loaded in 1991 at the age of 43.
A grand slam at 45 is remarkable, but Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson accomplished an even bigger feet at the over-the-hill age on March 17.
The Diamondback left-hander hurled a perfect game at the age of 40, ironically enough against the Braves.
Johnson has long been considered the best pitcher after the age of 35 the game has ever seen, but after throwing the 17th perfect game in modern day history at 40, there really is no doubt that he has aged like fine wine.
The ridiculously tall lefty even struck out 13 batters on his way to perfection at Turner Field.
Johnson and Franco move us right into another senior citizen by sports standards on the Major League circuit, Roger Clemens.
The now Astros pitcher by way of New York, Toronto and Boston wasn't supposed to be in the league this year.
Clemens, who is 41, has a perfect 8-0 record, and he could have been 11-0 if he didn't have three no-decisions.
The Texas native has a 2.27 ERA, the second lowest on the Astros staff and the lowest for a Houston starter.
He is striking out 10.22 batters per nine innings, and he has pitched a team second-highest 71.1 innings.
The Rocket is projected by espn.com to go a ridiculous 25-0 this season with a 2.27 ERA and over 250 strikeouts for the season.
These three ballplayers suddenly make Powell's desire to jump really far for his country in Greece seem reasonable.
Apparently, age means nothing in sports anymore.
As long as an athlete has a dream and the desire, his or her birth certificate can be ripped to shreds and left out of the discussion.
In the last few years, it was chic for teams to hire coaches thought to be past their prime to guide teams to championships. We give you Dick Vermeil, Lenny Wilkins, Jack McKeon, Joe Gibbs and the like.
The bringing in of "Golden Oldies" has now made its way to the field of play.
It just may be time for teams to start bringing in players in their early to mid 40s.
Would it be so crazy to suit up Mark McGwire, who is now a few seasons removed from the game and would be playing on rested knees.
Our how about John Elway. He could hardly walk his last few years in the league anyway, but his throws were still being fired like he was using a Howitzer.
Age means nothing in sports, and Powell may as well leap into the fray.
Besides if the U.S. doesn't send 40-year-olds to Athens, we may not be sending anyone over for the track and field competitions by the time all of the BALCO information is revealed.

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