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Austin Actors
Phil O'Hearn

Senior Comedy and Drama
by Phil O'Hearn

June 2004

I am a Senior athletic supporter. I'm not an old jockstrap; I'm an old jock, a Senior jock, actor, comic, writer and performer. The older I get, the more I become. At fifty years of age a lot of new opportunities present themselves. One of these is the Senior Olympic Games. I am a Senior sprinter. Senior sprinter: oxymoron or just a moron, you decide.

Training, for me, began a couple of months before the race. My goals were to lose ten pounds and increase my strength, speed and flexibility. Things were going well until ten days before the Olympics; I strained my hamstring. It didn't hurt much, just kinked and tightened and then...turned... PURPLE. The back of my left leg acquired a huge bruise.

So my training changed to resting. Resting is easier than training. Rest training: oxymoron or just a moron, you decide.

By the day of the race my purple leg was fading to a sickly yellow color, but it felt better. The weather, however, was nasty. There was wind and rain and a tornado watch, not ideal for an outdoor track meet. Yet when I showed up at the track, the Seniors were there at the registration table which was covered with gift bags of goodies advertising retirement homes and hearing aids.

Die hard Senior athletes: oxymorons or just morons, you decide.

There is a controversy in sports concerning performance-enhancing drugs. Steroids. For Seniors this is not an issue because of a report indicating an adverse reaction between steroids and Poligrip.

An ambulance was on site, the motor running. The staffers sat in the heated cab while the Seniors warmed up by running laps on the wet track in the rain and hard gusting wind.

I was running the 50-meter dash. (The first problem Seniors have with the 50-meter dash is that we don't know what a meter is. Fortunately, the track was marked.) There were six heats arranged by gender and age. I looked at my competitors. Their faces were old but when they took off their warm-up pants their legs were muscular and strong. Their faces and legs did not match. They contradicted each other. I had lost the ten pounds and my legs were...shapely. I've always looked great in drag.

Some of the competitors were in their seventies. My wife commented that the Fashion Gestapo should make a ruling concerning Spandex shorts and varicose veins.

But, back to the games. Just before the fifth heat, the heat before mine, one of the runners asked me to stand on his starting blocks to keep them from sliding on the wet track. I was happy to do so. The gun sounded and they took off. The man on whose starting blocks I was standing was running well and running fast. Then something happened. He slipped. His legs splayed. He fell on the track. I thought I heard him laughing. I was wrong. The medics from the heated ambulance cab ran to him. His hamstring had exploded. He was carried off on a stretcher.

I heard someone mutter, "There but for the Grace of God."

I reached down to feel my own injured hamstring. I had wrapped it tightly with an Ace bandage.

After the injured racer had been cleared from the track, an official informed us that we had exhausted our ambulance allotment. Yet we were called to the line.

My heat was the fastest, men 50 to 55 years old. Out of the Austin metropolitan area, of about a million people only four men in my age group registered to compete.

My three opponents used starting blocks. I did not. My three opponents wore lightweight cleated track shoes. I did not. My three opponents obviously had more experience, training and better equipment than I. But I was not nervous or intimidated. I was an actor and comic, a performer. I was not afraid.

Quickly, the four of us shook hands. (Senior athletes are quite friendly.) The starter instructed us to stand behind our blocks. I did not have starting blocks, so I just kind of stood...behind. "On your marks! Get set!" The pistol popped.

And we were off.

I had timed myself in training. I knew what my time should be unless my hamstring flared up. I ran well. I finished fourth.

You could say that I finished last. I say that I'm the fourth fastest 50-year-old in the Austin metropolitan area. Fourth fastest 50-year-old: oxymoron or just a moron, you decide.

I recently read a story in Sports Illustrated about a 90-year-old man who just set new American and world track and field records for his age group. So I have forty years or so to improve. These are years that I have to learn how to use starting blocks and faster shoes, years to heal and become stronger. Now I have my official time to compete against. And now, if nothing else, I know what a meter is.

Actually, there is another way to look at the race. If the performers in my heat had been doing stand-up comedy, and I performed last, I would have been the headliner!
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