I am no longer Housman's "Athlete Dying Young." I did not "slip betimes away/From fields where glory doesn't stay." No, I hung in--maybe past my time--and I keep slugging. Though who knows if my punches have any force left in them.
I read last night a piece I love--it solidified my dour mood--by the late great Red Smith, long-time sportswriter for "The New York Times," and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
The column is called "Night for Joe Louis," and it's a beautiful, sad an solemn account of Louis--after 17-years of fighting for money--being knocked out of the ring by 28-year-old Rocky Marciano, a puncher in his prime.
"For seventeen years," Smith writes, "three months, and twenty-two days Louis fought for money...Now the punch that was launched seventeen years ago had landed. A young man, Rocky Marciano, had knocked the old man out. That was all except--
"Well, except that this time he was lying down in his dressing-room in the catacombs of Madison Square Garden.
Memory retains scores of pictures of Joe in his dressing room, always sitting up, relaxed, answering questions in his slow, thoughtful way. This time only, he was down...."
"This kid," Joe said, "knocked me out with what? Two punches. Schmeling knocked me out with--musta been a hundred punches. But," Joe said, "I was twenty-two years old. You can take more then than later on...
"An old man's dream ended. A young man's vision of the future opened wide. Young men have visions, old men have dreams. But the place for old men to dream is beside the fire."
Like I said, I'm feeling creaky. No less facile and synapsed than I ever was, but maybe a little slower on the draw than I once was.
I've been drawing a living from writing for 38-years now--I don't remember how many months and days, and I'm good at what I do.
But every-so-often, I feel knocked through the ropes. Unsure whether or not to continue the fight.