Aging Affects Professional Sports Performance

Clayton Stehr, Staff Writer

The twilight of many current legendary sports stars is slowly descending. It’s something inevitable, inescapable, and unavoidable. Aging consensus hall of famers in our era continue to pursue the dominance that at one point in their careers seemed so easy to them. Although their failures today are understandable, it almost pains one to endure watching these superstars struggling to assert themselves in the sport they used to rule.

Two weeks ago, Roger Federer fell to Andreas Seppi in the Australian Open in the third round. It was Seppi’s first victory over a top 10 player at a major tournament, coming out of nowhere to knock out Federer, who previously advanced to the semifinals in the Australian Open each of the past 11 years. Federer finished with 55 unforced errors, along with an uncharacteristic nine double faults for one of the best servers in the game. Federer’s loss continues his drought of Grand Slam titles since the 2012 Wimbledon. Although that may not seem shocking for a normal player, it serves as a surprise for someone who won 15 Grand Slam titles in a five year span, from 2004-2009. In the past five years, he’s only captured two titles, overtaken by younger talent from the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray.

Thirty-six year old Kobe Bryant recently tore his right rotator cuff, and after successful surgery is unable to play for over nine months, a setback that only exacerbates his declined performance in recent years. Bryant competed in only six games in the 2013-2014 season. In the past two seasons Bryant posted career lows in field goal percentage and minutes played, as the Lakers haven’t made it into the Finals in the past four years, and missed the playoffs last year for the only the second time in Bryant’s 19 year career. Once the face of the Lakers’ franchise, rumors of trading Bryant have surfaced, something that six years ago seemed blasphemous for someone who carried a franchise to seven Finals appearances.

Peyton Manning looked flat in his loss to 25-year-old Andrew Luck, as Manning’s Super Bowl favorite Broncos seemed to collapse against the underdog Colts. Many saw this as Manning’s last, best chance to win only his second championship in his illustrious 17-year career: he will enter next season at the age of 39, and durability became an issue towards the end of the season, as his three neck surgeries and age are finally catching up with him. Manning’s had a presence in the league ever since his rookie season, winning five MVPs and shattering record after record. Despite these personal accolades, Manning continues to search for that second Super Bowl victory and proves so elusive. However, time is running out for Manning, as one can see him slipping slowly behind new up-and-coming younger quarterbacks in the league.

Electrifying Tiger Woods, once the heart and soul of a sport predicated on the success of one player, seems a mere shell of himself. He hasn’t won a major in over six years; in the six years prior to his last major win he won seven. As the world awaits Tiger’s 15th major title, the question arises: “when is Tiger going to be back?” The sport hasn’t been the same without the dominance of the player who attracts jam-packed, rowdy galleries and rewards them will nail-biting, clutch performances, something fresh to a sport known for its soft “golf-clap” and sometimes unexciting matches. However, nothing’s been the same since the infamous sex scandal first surfaced in 2009. Ever since, fans continue to watch golf in hope of finally seeing the old Tiger make his return. Although Tiger captured many PGA tour events in the past seven years, he has yet to come up clutch when it matters most, as one has to endure watching the once captivating figure missing the shots that at one point seemed so easy to him.

Enjoy watching these legends while you can; you don’t know how much longer they’re going to be around.