Taking My Hacks

Time in a Bottle - Reflections from a Fellow Collector

Joe Orlando

Every year, collectors and sports fans witness the changing of the guard as stars of the past pass the torch to the next generation. Sometimes the change is foreseen. Other times, it is sudden. Some athletes can "get old" overnight. It is something that you see in boxing perhaps more than any other sport. It's hard to explain how it happens so quickly and without warning, but it does.

I can tell you from personal experience that it can blindside you. I felt like I was 22 until I was 40. I have always tried my best to stay in shape, but then things started to change. Without warning, minor elbow and shoulder issues arose despite nothing dramatic causing the problems. You start wondering if you might pull a hamstring the next time you brush your teeth. It's not the result of some rare disease, it's just age. My 40-year old bubble had burst.

It really burst this spring when I completely severed my right Achilles tendon sprinting after a gapper while playing in an all-day softball tournament. During the last couple of years I noticed that I couldn't do some of the physical things I was accustomed to doing for so long, but the injury was the icing on my reality cake. During the past year, we watched as some major stars met their fate as athletes. Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning are two that come to mind. Bryant had a fantastic final game and Manning went out with a Super Bowl victory. There were times, however, when we were reminded that they were shells of their former selves. Bryant's limited mobility and Manning's lack of arm strength were obvious, but it happens to all of them and to all of us too.

We all want our sports stars to finish the way they started, to preserve the memory that we have of them when they were in their primes, but that is so rare. Sports can humble even the greatest and it is unforgiving. At some point, your body just can't do what it once could anymore, no matter how mentally resilient you are.  Just ask Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt or Derek Jeter.

Beyond watching athletes age is coming to grips with the inevitable news that a shining star has passed. In recent times, the sports world lost a couple of true icons in Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe. While their legacies will echo in eternity, they are human like the rest of us no matter how superhuman they seemed in the ring and on the ice. At some point, our time is up. 

Watching seemingly invincible sports heroes age, and eventually pass on, can trigger personal reflections. We even think about our own mortality. A moment like this happened to me when I watched the 25-year reunion of the 1989 Oakland A's World Series championship team in 2014. Dave Parker struggled to walk from the effects of Parkinson's disease and Bob Welch had passed on. In my mind, they were still young.

In some ways, collecting keeps us young as we attempt to keep the kid inside alive as long as we can. We can relive our memories and preserve them like time in a bottle. Moments, like the ones mentioned earlier, prompt collectors to reflect upon their own lives. Seeing our sports heroes age and retire means that we are getting a little older too. When those same heroes pass on, it provides another reminder that our time is limited.

The purpose of this piece is not to perpetuate the sadness created by the loss of our heroes. It is simply to acknowledge the impact that these events have on us, the power these events have to remind us of our own journeys and ever-changing lives. The natural timeline of our sports heroes, one that is played out in public view, is a reminder of our own.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
PSA President