Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: Geezer games

By Dennis Hinkamp

Huntsman World Senior Games is a minefield of PC faux pas.
by Dennis Hinkamp

St. George, Utah, is already known for attracting more old people than a $6.99 buffet, so what better place for the Huntsman World Senior Games? This is not senior as in the terminal year of high school or college, but rather as in old. I’d really like to say I had a fake I.D. that allowed me to get into this over-50 sporting event, but that would be a disservice to all those even older than I.

I must admit to a certain degree of survivor guilt at even being able to enter any kind of race at age 53. So many of my athlete friends from bygone days have succumbed to knee injuries and hip replacements or the love of good food and comfortable chairs. Age is just a number, but it is a brutal, unrelenting one.

The best thing about these events is that you don’t have to get faster; you just have to get older. It’s common to hear a competitor exclaim, “I would have got the bronze medal if I were just a year older!” Hence the need to check IDs at every event. Some of these people would dye their hair white just to get in an older age group.

“I’m sorry sir, you don’t look a day over 55,” I imagine the officials saying. “If you persist with that fake limp and shuffle, we are going to have to call the bouncer. Now go back to your age group until you’re old enough to enter.”

I embrace the sixth decade in an awkward, friendly homophobic-hug sort of way. I’m glad to see you, but really don’t embrace me too tightly; okay? The only problem I have with these events is the terminology. “Senior,” as in senior citizens? There has got to be something better.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) starts sending out its literature when you turn 50. They must have formed this group at a time of shorter life spans and/or more reliable investments, because who can retire at age 50 or even 60 or 70? Now this association of retired persons is an association of persons who are really angry at social insecurity and Bernie Madoff -inspired investment strategists.

So what exactly do we call our athletic baby boomer brethren? I’m familiar with master’s sporting events but there is no standard for the word. Master’s Track and Field starts at age 40 while master’s swimming starts at age 25. Are you kidding me? What is it about water that makes you age so fast while you have to wait 15 more years to becoming a master of track and field?

At one time, the Master’s Ultimate Frisbee lower age limit was 30 for women and 33 for men. What? Against all statistical evidence, women are aging faster than men? Now the governing body of Ultimate Frisbee is working on a system of 30 years old for master’s and 40 for grand master’s. Grand master? Isn’t that something related to chess or old hip-hop artists? Master’s golf seems not to be a problem since people in their 50s regularly win tournaments. And I do truly hope there never is a NASCAR master’s race series. “Gentlemen, please don’t start your engines.”

I sort of like the word “veterans,” since it connotes many years of experience, but this term should rightly be reserved for those who fought in wars. There is no easy solution.

Terminology for any age after 21 is a minefield of political correctness. I’d suggest just having fun with it. Call them the Geezer Games, the Old Folks Olympics or whatever you like. Let loose the sponsors. What about the Middle-Aged Marathon, Minoxidil (generic Rogaine) Mile or Cialis Cycling?

The important thing is that people are getting out there and doing something. In many cases more than their blubber-butt grandkids. Guess what, kids: We’re spending your inheritance on carbon fiber triathlon bikes.

Although he appears much younger in his airbrushed photo, Dennis Hinkamp legally received a bronze medal in the Huntsman World Senior Games triathlon.


This article was originally published on November 2, 2009.