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Athletic Support: “Are athletes getting better with age?”
eli cranor
Syndicated sports columnist Eli Cranor

Dear Athletic Support: I was watching the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Chicago Cubs last week when it happened again. The Cardinals catcher, Yadier Molina, blasted a solo home run to break a 1-1 tie in the 7th inning as the Cardinals went on to beat the Cubs, 2-1. I thought to myself, “How is this guy still playing baseball?” I feel like I’ve been watching him crush my Cubs and many other teams my whole life. “Yadi” is 38 years old and still going strong. In fact, it’s been a good year for the old guys. Tom Brady won his sixth Super Bowl at age 43, LeBron James seeks to defend his NBA Championship title at age 36, and Phil Mickelson just became the oldest golfer to ever win a Major Championship at age 50! So my question is, do we place too much emphasis on age when determining a player's ability to compete? With modern advancements in science and technology blending with sports, how long can these guys go? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 


—Age-Old Question


Dear Age-Old: First things first, I’m a Cardinals fan. I married into it, but ever since then I’ve been enamored. So, yes, I’m very familiar with Yadi. My wife’s grandmother loves him even more than I do. She’s in her eighties and swears Yadi has been the Card’s catcher since she was a little girl!


Jokes aside, you raise a very good question. This has been a good year for older athletes. I think you’re right. Sport science just keeps getting better and better. Athletic trainers are as smart as they’ve ever been. I know things have changed greatly since I was playing, and that’s only been a little over ten years. 


The bigger question at play here, though, is what are these athletes doing to their bodies in the long run? Sure, they’re still playing, but what will the long-term ramifications be? 


Only time will tell, but in the end that is their decision. If they want to keep playing, I’ll keep right on watching them!


Dear Athletic Support: I watched my son’s high school football coach closely all last season. I’ll be the first to admit, he was up against a tough situation. Our best player — our quarterback — was what I’d call a “turd.”  Of all the boys on the team, he definitely has the worst altitude. To make matters even tougher, he’s also our best player. What do you think this coach should do next season? Should he continue to start this turd at quarterback, or bench him for a bit and see if he can straighten him out?


—   Stinky Situation


Dear Stinky: It’s always hard when your best player isn’t your leader. It’s extra hard when your best player has the worst attitude on the team.


In the end, though, winning is never worth losing the respect of the players, and that’s exactly what will happen if your son’s coach holds his quarterback to a different — less strict — standard than the rest of the team.


Even if it costs him a few wins, your coach still needs to try and straighten that quarterback out, and nothing gets a young athlete’s attention faster than the bench.


Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to 


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