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
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – The guest is Gary McCoy, a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations. Our focus is the injury pandemic in baseball, what’s causing it and how it can be fixed.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Episode #11 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Latest on Brain Trauma, Concussions and CTE with Dr. Chris Nowinski – Nowinski is CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO.
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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