Anyone out there remember in 1986, how The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen helped to change everything in comics? Both were stories of superheroes coming out of retirement after disappearing for years. They were groundbreaking for many reasons. They were two of the books that forced the comics industry to grow up. For the first time, comic book authors had acknowledged that these characters must age like we do. Age brings different motivations and a whole new perspective. This was some hard-core fiction.
The picture is from the Dark Knight Returns, and it finally answered one of those long standing questions that comic geeks had argued about for decades: Could Batman defeat Superman? Hell yeah, he can. Even when he is aged and broken down. Even against someone who does not age and is virtually immortal, he was going to finish the fight as the last man standing. His age made the story that much more interesting. His motivations and tactics were very different because of it. He outmatched Supes in a story that screamed of symbolism, not just of the power of a mortal man fighting to uphold an ideal, but of men doing what is right as opposed to doing what is lawful. He was essentially "sticking it to The Man."
At Masters Nationals last weekend, Jon Blank turned in a 59.94 for his 100 scy breaststroke. Jon is 50 years old.
This isn't a comic book. It's for real. Good God, that is amazing! There were three guys in the 45-49 age group under 1:00 as well! So now my goal of getting under a minute in my teens, 20's and 30's doesn't seem like such a big deal. I need to hit it for two more decades to even keep up with these bad boys.
Also, don't get me started about Rich Abrahams and his 22.10 50 free. He is 65. Now that he is retirement age, I expect to see him get even faster. He will have more time to commit to being a bad-ass! I imagine the days of tech-suits are not over for this guy. He will be wearing it as he fights crime when he can't sleep at night because he can't contain the energy of his awesomeness. Maybe he will try something like the McNaughton Trail Run (200 Mile Ultra-Marathon) next.
In my eyes these people, and masters swimmers in general, are doing something heroic. They are making a statement as living symbols of an exciting ideal. They are showing us that age really means nothing and that fitness is a lifetime endeavor. In their own way, these guys are sticking it to The Man. They are telling The Man to get off his lazy butt and stop making excuses for not living his life to the fittest and fullest.
I almost feel bad for writing this. I feel that by marveling at their age, I might be insulting them. They are ignoring their age, and people like me keep bringing it up. I can imagine Dara Torres gets sick of talking about how old she is. Jaring Timmerman probably hates it even more. It's not like I am calling them "Oldy Olsen" and pointing my finger at them, but still... I just imagine that if I interviewed them and said something about how old they are, it might look a lot like that picture of Batman and Superman, with me getting punched in the face instead.
Masters swimming rocks. It seems to me that it is the perfect place to be surrounded by friends who share a love for the sport, in an environment that is both extremely laid-back and hard-core all at the same time.
I think it might be time for me to start a masters team in my neck of the woods. What should I call it?