Don't fret, Mike: Life begins at 40
By Jim Armstrong
Special to Page 2

Mr. Mike Jordan
c/o Washington Wizards
601 F Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Mike,

Happy birthday, dude! Oops, my bad. Guess we can't call you that anymore, now that you've hit the Big 4-Oh and all. But hey, happy birthday anyway. Enjoy the black balloons, my man, and repeat after me, growing old beats the road apples out of the alternative.

You know that old joke when the bride says, "I do ... now there are gonna be some changes around here"? Well, get ready, bubba. Now that you've joined the Forty Club, there are going to be some changes in your life. You're going to ask in a few years anyway, so I'll give you the answer now. No, they didn't raise the hoop to 11 feet. There just isn't as much Air under you anymore.

Bugs Bunny, Michael Jordan
Your pal Bugs Bunny should be able to offer plenty of tips about how to age gracefully.
You don't hit 40, Mike, it hits you. But hey, relax, life on the white tee box isn't so bad. People start giving you two strokes a side, and you only sweat when you want to. OK, so the old Ray-o-Vac isn't fully charged anymore. So you spend more time in the bathroom than the bedroom. It's not like they've reserved a seat for you at the bingo parlor. You're still a young man. Well, you know, sort of.

I mean, check out your man, Bugs Bunny. He has been around forever and a day, but he's still going strong. I'm thinking it's because of all carrots his doctor makes him eat. He probably eats a lot of salads, too. That's another thing about being 40, Mike. You've got to eat a ton of salads. If not, well, let me put it this way: Putting on your pants in your 40s gives new meaning to the term "Space Jam."

The first rule of turning 40 is watch the carbs. Those suckers can snack up on you. One minute you've got game, the next minute you've got gut. A few of those deep-dish pizzas you used to eat in Chicago and, before you know it, Shawn Kemp is staring at you in the mirror. What, you don't believe me? Go ask Marlon Brando. He was fine 'til he hit every fast-food joint on the waterfront.

But you know what they say, Mike. Growing old is just part of living. You've just got to know how to deal with it. Take my neighbor, George. He's an expert on the subject. Every Christmas, when he gains a few pounds, he stops tucking in his pants and asks his wife to buy him bigger underwear. She always buys him Hanes, too, because she thinks you look cute in those commercials.

I don't want to give you the impression it's all downhill from here, Mike. Sure, Elvis was gone by 42, but he took all the wrong pills. Which reminds me -- when you hit 40, pills are a big part of the program. My wife lines up 11 of them for me every flippin' morning. And that's when I'm feeling good, for cripesakes. When I'm sick, she buys stock in Walgreen's. It's going to happen to you, too, my man. Even hoops legends can't escape the pill drill.

Mariah Carey, Michael Jordan
Chicks still dig older men ... as long as they're not wearing spandex.
Now there's an idea, Mike. Get a gig stumping for Walgreen's. Let 'em pay you in pills. You don't need any more money, but now that you're in the fraternity, you're going to need lots of pills. Let me know if you need to know more about this particular subject. I'm the man when it comes to pills. I've even got pills for when your stomach is upset because you took too many pills.

All those miles you put in on the old hardwood, Mike? They catch up with you in your 40s. I hear, in the sequel, Forrest Gump has artificial knees, and you might need one someday, too. If it's not that, trust me, it will be something else. In the end, the doctors are the only ones who can keep you in one piece.

Speaking of doctors, if one tells you to cough, you run. Oh, and beware of the glove. And no, I'm not talking about Gary Payton.

Of course, the real beauty of turning 40 is that you don't have to be in such a hurry anymore. You can, you know, go at your own pace. And you can play pickup games without Ron Artest around. On the other hand, you can't wear Spandex at the health club. Sorry, Mike. If anybody could get away with it, it's you, but rules are rules. Besides, chicks don't dig men in their 40s wearing Spandex.

Michael Jordan
When you're 40, there's no need to shave your head anymore. Just let it flow, Mike.
There are a few other things you need to beware of, Mike, now that you've officially reached middle age. One of the sure signs of being 40 is you start ordering stuff off those ridiculous TV infomercials. Life at 40 also means you can't tell your kids to turn up the music. Oh, and, by the way, you can give it a rest with the starving-kids-in-China and the you'll-poke-your-eye-out-with-that-thing routines. When you're 40, your kids have heard it all.

Just so you know, Mike, it's OK to lie when you hit 40. If you weigh 250, like you did before your last comeback, tell 'em you're 235. Nobody will know. And if you want to make people think you're still clinging to your 30s, get yourself one of those mini-vans. Every 30-something parent in American has one of those damn things.

Now that we've gone this far, Mike, I thought maybe I could ask you a question: Since you're 40 now, are you still going to shave your head? Because, well, I hate to tell you, but we all know the deal. It might have evolved into a fashion statement for a generation, but you did it because you were starting to go bald. Now that you're 40, you don't have to worry about it anymore. Let the 'fro grow. Gray hair doesn't make you look old. It makes you look, you know, distinguished. Kind of like Shelly Winters is big-boned.

Well, I wish I had more time, Mike, and I'm sorry I had to miss your party. I promise I'll catch you next time I'm cruising through your neighborhood in my '81 Pinto. Like I said, my man, don't sweat turning 40. They might be the best years of your life. What's that? Sorry, Mariah Carey doesn't come with the deal.

Jim Armstrong, a sports columnist for the Denver Post, will be a regular contributor to Page 2.



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