First.  Let me state I know Alzheimer’s is bad.  Very bad. So I use it as an example grudgingly but to make a point and not diminish the true difficulties that arise with the onset of Alzheimer’s.

But I do hope to showcase the depth of the point on this whole athlete alzheimers thing I m gonna write about.

Second. I use athlete loosely. At least as in with regard to me as an athlete.

While probably not the most naturally talented athlete or maybe not big enough or even fast enough I was born with incredible good hand-eye coordination.

And possibly blessed with some better than average twitch muscles.

And an innate ability to slow down fast moments within the game (other jock-like people will understand that).

All that said … what that meant was I could play sports relatively well.

Whatever the sport, if I cared, I could be competitive (not great) pretty quickly. In the end, beyond the Physical stuff, I pretty much think sports is instinctual. You either have it or you don’t. sure.  There are a lot of weekend athletes who “make” themselves good … hours of practice and tons of lessons and books and … well .. whatever. But frankly they never look as good as natural athletes. Because, well, its not natural to them. Its not instinctual but rather its practiced.

So.  While I am certainly not a professional level jock  I do recognize that what I have come by naturally is a blessing …  and the best playing is when it is by instinct and not by thinking. I certainly was always better the less I thought.


I mention all that not to pat myself on the back but rather to set the foundation for the pain & frustration I am going to try and describe.

Which leads me back to Alzheimer’s.

I played a game of ping pong the other night.  Or let’s say I tried.

I almost cried.

Its gone.

Ok. Maybe it was just gone and the next time it may show up.

Nope. The natural instinct was gone.


A game of ping pong.

I know.  I know. It was just one frickin’ game of ping pong (as my buddy who I tried to play with said).  But.  The bottom line.

Hand eye coordination gone.

Gone.  Bye bye.  Sayonara. Kablooey.

I sucked. And this was ping pong.  My mind began racing toward the sports shit I actually cared about. And it became depressing very very quickly.

Because no jock will admit it … but this is our biggest fear.

Its not getting old.

Its not diminishing talent.

Its not that additional aches and pains.

Its not the extra 5 pounds.

None of that.

Its athletic Alzheimer’s.  Its when everything your body knows cannot be remembered by your own body.  And your mind races to do what you used to do and think what you used to think.  But you can’t.  Because it has nothing to do with “trying.”

It just was … and now it isn’t.

Simple as that.

As complicated as that.

As shitty as that.

As anyone who has played any sport competitively knows sports is mental. Beyond the actual ‘doing’ part … the real battle rages inside the often over circuited, over thinking, overwhelmed by multiple messages, brain.

One mistake, one question sneaking into natural self-confidence, one twinge of that dreaded overthinking, one moment of self-doubt.  Al those one type things are an athlete’s natural enemy. Because they make what seemed natural then seem incredibly unnatural.

Because those are the things that yank you out of the intangible zone a natural jock falls into when they play into a quite tangible “think, think, think” mode.

This is different.

This is Alzheimer’s.

This isn’t about refinding the flow or snatching back what was once natural and getting it going again.

Because there is nothing to get going anymore. You can try and reach back mentally for that which was and that which is no more.

Even ping pong becomes an insurmountable challenge.

And if ping pong is insurmountable you can pretty much write-off anything that takes coordination (thank god beer drinking involves only minor coordination).

This, this thing I call athletes alzheimers, is it.  The big fear of athletes. And it sucks when it actually happens.

Trust me.  I ain’t picking up a ping pong paddle again for a very very long time.

Written by Bruce