Jeff Pearlman

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On the lip of 46

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 9.30.52 PM

As I write this, it is 11:54 pm, and I’m six minutes away from my 46th birthday.

Yup.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “Youth is wasted on the young,” which was uttered by George Bernard Shaw, who has supported the sentiment by being dead for 68 years. I don’t think the words meant much—if anything—to me through my teens, 20s and 30s because those spans still feel green. You see life through the prism of what’s coming down the road. Where will you attend college? What will you do tonight? Where will you live? Who will you marry? How many kids will you have? Those are the ponderings (generally) of the up and coming, and they’re thrilling

As I sit here at 46, however, I get what Shaw was saying. Youth is wasted on the young. Somehow, upon hitting the 40s you suddenly become aware of how fast the days go by. And the weeks go by. And the months go by. Blink—done. Blink—done. Blink—done. It’s entirely perception, obviously, because 24 hours are 24 hours whether you’re 2, 12, 25 or 46. Yet for some reason, as we age the days pass with greater speed. It sucks, because that flicking of time is accompanied by declining skills. I hate to admit this, but my brain isn’t as focused now as it was a decade ago. Thoughts enter and leave in a blink. I have an idea, get distracted, and lose it for two days. That never used to be the case.

Athletically, I’m a shell of what I was (which wasn’t even particularly amazing). I jump less high. I sprint slower. My back hurts.

Again—youth is wasted on the young.

Wait. It’s midnight. I’m officially 46.

Where was I?

Oh, right. Aging.

So here’s the thing: Despite all the agony, I’d rather be here than be where I used to dwell. I was an idiot at 25. I was less of an idiot at 35—but still part idiot. At 46, I’m confident. I’m established. My marriage is terrific, my kids are wonderful, I live in California and bask in the sun. What I might lack in youthful enthusiasm I make up for with wisdom and understanding. I own context I once lacked. I get history, because I’ve lived it. I see young cockiness and I laugh, because it’s terribly misguided and misplaced. One day, you—Mr. 26-year-old—will be in my shoes. You’ll stand here, remembering what it was to be younger.

To be a kid.

  • JOregon

    Dude. I am 20 years older than you, yet I am so much younger.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life