The Breakdown: Old dogs, old tricks |

The Breakdown: Old dogs, old tricks

summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Sports editor Bryce Evans

As the old saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. OK, it’s really more of an old cliche (and not true at all), but it works with what I want to bring up. So, let’s ignore the fact I couldn’t come up with a better lead and just move on.

In the past week, decisions of two “old” athletes grabbed some headlines. Sure, they were headlines at the bottom of pages buried in the back of sports sections, but they were headlines nonetheless.

You don’t have to feel bad if you hadn’t heard about them. In the grand scheme of 24/7 sports, they don’t rank quite as high for media outlets as, say, college basketball conference tourneys or the rumors that Tiger Woods may, gulp, play again in two weeks!

(Note: The punctuation in the last sentence was meant as sarcasm.)

Here’s what I’m talking about:

First, on Wednesday, disgraced track star Marion Jones signed with the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock. A day later, 48-year-old Chris Chelios made his NHL season debut with the Atlanta Thrashers.

I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, the WNBA is still around.

Back to the point at hand, though. (I swear there is a point.)

You see, both these stories, in their own way, show exactly why sports can be so important in people’s lives.

Let’s start with the princess of BALCO, Marion Jones. At 34, Jones is literally a shell of her former self. Nearly all her records and medals have been stripped from her brilliant, albeit unnatural, track career because of her admission to steroids. She went to jail for perjury, and then she tried to go back to living life. Only, she couldn’t.

When you’re still in your mid-30s and you’ve lost nearly everything you worked your entire life for, how do you pick up the pieces?

Do something that you love.

Jones was an exceptional college basketball player, leading the University of North Carolina to a national championship as a freshman point guard in 1994. Even after her track career starting winding down, she was drafted by Phoenix’s WNBA squad in 2003, but obviously never played.

Jones claims that this move isn’t about earning any sort of redemption. Regardless, basketball is certainly giving her a second chance at being remembered as something other than a cheater.

Now, the situation with Chelios is totally different. As one of the best American hockey players of all time, Chelios could have retired years ago (a decade ago, really) and still been a lock to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Instead, he plugged away for years with his ice time dwindling and his skills slowly diminishing.

And here he is, playing in his 26th NHL season at age 48.

Although, this season has been far different from any of the other 25.

In the spring of 2009, Chelios was released from the Detroit Red Wings, and in the offseason, he didn’t have many teams interested in his services. Rather than hanging up the skates, though, Chelios decided to play for the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League – the top minor league of the NHL – where Chelios racked up 22 points in 46 games and played well enough for the 11th-place Thrashers to offer him a contract.

This isn’t about seeking another title (the Thrashers likely won’t sniff the playoffs) and it isn’t about setting any sort of records (Gordie Howe played in the NHL at age 51, so Chelios is still three years off). He seems to only be playing because he truly loves to play. Nothing more. Nothing less.

To be doing what they’re doing, both Jones and Chelios certainly are old dogs. Sure, they could try something new and move on with their lives. But sometimes, those old tricks are just better.

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