By Ken Reed

I’ve long found it interesting that a common perception is the United States is a sports-mad country. In reality, we’re a couch potato country when it comes to sports. We love to watch sports but our participation in sports — as adults, at least — is much less than many other countries.

In Europe, for example, soccer clubs often have leagues for those aged 8-80. In the United States, a large percentage of Americans are done playing any form of competitive sport by age 13. Another large group finishes sports participation as soon as high school ends. And then another large chunk of adults are done with playing sports the day they pickup their college diploma.

Yes, there are recreation sports leagues around the country but only a small percentage of American adults take part in those leagues.

That’s why I found a 4th of July weekend article about an 81-year-old baseball player so compelling. Lou Rotola plays baseball, he doesn’t just watch it.

That’s right, he’s 81, and he suits up and plays every week.

“Flat stomach, straight back, 81 years old, my god,” says Mark Danuser, who runs the Here To Play baseball fields where Rotola’s senior teams play. “A lot of guys are just hoping to be able to walk and not be fed their dinner by a spoon, and he’s out there playing ball.”

Rotola loves playing the game and doesn’t believe you need to stop at a certain age, even if you have a few aches and pains.

“I got it all. By no means can I put the uniform on and be pain-free or ache-free,” says Rotola.

“Once I get going here, I put it together. I embrace it rather than deny it. ‘This is what you have, Lou, so make the most of it.’ And before you know it, I’m playing two or three games.
“I just can’t imagine I’m playing. Not because of my age, but the fact that I get to play, with guys who like to play. And I’m leaving it on the field, oh, I’ll tell ya.”

Rotola plans to keep playing until his heart stops ticking.

“Retiring is not in my mind,” says Rotola.

“Like, it’s not in my mind that ‘I guess I won’t play when I get old.’ Because that’s almost beyond me. … Die with your spikes on or something.”

We don’t need all of our octogenarians playing baseball in the United States. But given our country’s rising health care costs and obesity epidemic, we need more adults, 18+, to come out of the stands, or get off their couch, and get back out on the field and into the game.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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