Play Like a Champion!

All work and no play makes you an also-ran in the game of life.

“Hope I die before I get old,” declare the Who in their classic rock anthem My Generation. What really makes us “old” — our chronological age or our attitude? (“I’m TOO OLD for that sort of thing,” etc.) My favorite quote on staying young is by philosopher Oliver Wendell Holmes: “We don’t stop playing because we get old — we get old because we stop playing.” And “Da Coach” here is not about to stop playing.

I’m writing these words as I sip an iced coffee outside on a picture perfect summer Tuesday morning. This is after a 30-minute bike ride en route to my office. Now how many of YOU are saying, “Gee — I’d love to ride MY bike to the office, BUT …” and kill the possibility before it even has a chance to grow. WHAT IF — let’s just say — you could bring a change of clothes in a backpack, that you could put your toiletries in the pack, that there was a health club with a shower nearby, that you’d have a blast riding by all the cars stuck in rush hour traffic … “NAH — better not … what would people think? After all, I’M MIDDLE AGED.”

I submit it’s not that you COULDN’T ride your bike — you just WOULDN’T because you think it would be “undignified.” Well, for me — summer’s here and the time is right for riding in the streets. I loved it when I was 10 years old, and it’s no different decades later.

So what are some things you can do to get some “play” into your life? Here’s a few examples I regularly engage in:

• Team sports. There’s nothing I liked better than takin’ it to the hoop with a group of guys at the “Y” — we’re out there runnin’, gunnin’, jumpin’, bumpin’, sweatin’ on each other and talkin’ all kinds of trash … a phenomenal work out. (I’m currently on “injured reserve,” rehabbing my right hip and right knee. I think my “40 Year/40,000 Pick-up Game Warrantee” expired on those body parts …)

• Swimming. Most of the year I’m doing indoor pool laps, but when July and August come, I love jumping into Lake Michigan. The water, much cleaner than you might think, is always refreshingly invigorating.  (A well kept secret: Chicago is a GREAT beach town.)

• Biking.  I’m a wimp when it’s cold out, but when the weather warms up you’ll find me riding on my bicycle along Chicago’s lakefront bike trail. Got my helmet on, got a sideview mirror on my handlebars to check on traffic as I cruise along with a Grateful Dead show from the ’70’s blasting in my earbuds — hey now!

• Cooking. No matter what kind of day we’ve had, my wife and I usually prepare a simple dinner from scratch. It really doesn’t take that long, and the process of chopping up ingredients (always garlic), mixing them together in a pan while adding seasonings and serving them up puts me in a state of relaxed concentration. And the results beat the heck out of a microwave frozen dinner.

• Fandom. As a Chicago sports fan, I’m cheering year ’round for my teams Da Cubs, Da Bears and Da Bulls. There’s no better way to let out pent up emotions than at the old ball game. My teams may not always win, but as a die-hard fan, I keep on showing up.

• Music. I learned to play guitar by mastering a few simple chords and then playing along with Beatles, Stones and Grateful Dead records — I always imagined I was playing in the band. I have a few musician friends — we get together every so often and have a jam session to get in the groove and let the good times roll. (No — you don’t want to hear me sing, and I won’t quit my day job …)

• Dogs. My wife and I are dog lovers. We think our dog is a highly evolved being — who else can give such unconditional love? And our dog is ALWAYS up for playing, even if it’s just a game of fetch or rope tug around the house.

• Outings. About once a month I go out with some buddies for drinks, dinner and perhaps a music or sporting event. Since one of the gang is an Italian-American, we call this our “Goombah night” — a night on the town to have some good clean fun. My philosophy is, “Everything in moderation, INCLUDING moderation.” (I can hear Socrates groaning …)

I hope I’ve inspired you to add a little fun into your life today, and everyday. In order to live a great life, play like a champion!

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