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The NBA Playoffs: Where Aging Happens

This article is more than 8 years old.
Given Shaquille O'Neal's recent spate of injuries, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers (r) probably wishes O'Neal's number matched his age, but the big man is 39. (AP)
Given Shaquille O'Neal's recent spate of injuries, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers (r) probably wishes O'Neal's number matched his age, but the big man is 39. (AP)

Sports are often a celebration and showcase of youth and vigor. But this year's NBA playoffs, in particular the series between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, have Bill thinking about the passage of time.

The Heat that would not be denied
Appears again tonight.
For fans in Boston this may be
A most unwelcome sight.

The headline says that "Shaq is back,"
And, yes, Shaquille might play,
But would his presence stop the tide
Of time's insistent way
Of slowing down the aging legs,
Of limiting the spring…
To show again the saddest truth
Of some diminished thing?

Time chips away at talent.
Time can blunt the sharp desire.
It makes a pile of modest coals
Of that which burned as fire.

Experience is fine, I guess,
Intelligence, as well.
But gravity won't be denied,
As anyone can tell
Who's watched a player growing old.
It couldn't be much clearer,
And even those who don't watch hoops
Have seen it in the mirror.

This doesn't mean that fans should quit,
Or that they shouldn't cheer.
On any given night we find
The clock can disappear…
Or seem to, for a time, at least;
Illusions we embrace
To help us through the time we spend
In this or any place,
Can blind us to the passing time
Until a game is done…
And that's why sometimes youth has lost,
And sometimes age has won.
Each ripple seems to be unique,
Within the river's flow.
We watch these games in part to find
Surprise in what we know.

This program aired on May 7, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.

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