I'm 23 years old.
Usually I keep that to myself, especially when I'm around the office -- the folks around there don't like it when they talk about concerts in the 70s and 80s knowing I wasn't born yet. It's an age some adults still consider "being so young," while others that are still in high school or college couldn't fathom cooking their own meals, paying their own insurance or thinking cleaning up the kitchen is a pretty productive use of a Sunday.
Post-college, 20-something life is really this in-between transitional period. It's impossible to count the number of times I hear from people my age say, "I know I'm an adult, I just don't feel that old."
And it's for good reason: this is the first time most of us have to be entirely responsible for ourselves. There's no Monopoly money anymore. There's [hopefully] very little bailing out needed on our behalf.
For us sports fans, though, there's an entirely new layer:
For the first time in our lives, we are the same age as the millionaire athletes we follow in minute detail.
For those of us that played sports (some more competitively than others), we always tended to play with kids our own age. That went up until high school, where a number of people dropped out of sports at some point (myself included) to pursue other endeavors.
That number drastically decreased again when we entered the college ranks. We didn't necessarily realize it -- probably because we didn't see them on campus as much as we did in high school hallways -- but those football and basketball players were the same age we were.
This lack of recognition about athletes' age it likely due to the nature of college's inherent theme: prolonging youth for as long as society allowed. It's almost like, when you're in college, you don't accept that these guys that we'd always looked at as "older" suddenly aren't that anymore. It's part of embracing our youth.
Once you're beyond college age, it's a completely different story.
For many people, post-collegiate life is really about transitioning into a certain amount of maturity. I say "many" because certain Facebook posts I see from people I knew in high school would argue with me saying "all" or "most." This early-20s time period is one where you start to realize your place in the world. At the very least, it's a time when you begin trying to figure out what you want that place to be.
Then it hits you that professional athletes -- some worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars -- have been on earth the exact same amount of time you have.
For someone that grew up assuming I'd always be younger than every Trail Blazer, it's a pretty weird feeling. My previous views of pro sports have been replaced by a completely new outlook.
As a big college football fan and follower of college basketball (like many Oregonians, I'd imagine), I used to really be into the concept of recruiting; I only saw 17- and 18-year-old athletes as star ratings, not as the kids they really are. These days, I don't spend as much time paying attention. Not being so far removed from that age, I can sympathize with how difficult it would be to navigate the recruitment waters. Could you imagine?
I still have a certain amount of youthful naiveté that I can achieve fortune and fame, but I better understand the context beyond the numbers. Time in adulthood has been brief for is 20-somethings. We're trying to find our identity, whether that's as an elite multimillionaire basketball player a guy writing about them. We're all starting that journey.
I was having a conversation on this topic with a coworker recently. After telling her about my existential crisis about being as old as many young pro athletes, she followed up with, "Just wait until the players you watched with your family are going into the Hall of Fame!"
At this point it hit me... I'm just getting used to being the same age as these guys. I'm going to be OLDER than them at some point too? I don't think I'm ready for that quite yet.
The staff did a roundtable earlier this week. It was a great hodgepodge of thinking about who was our first favorite player was. From Jim Paxson to Brandon Roy, we had players from all eras. It's all part of the generations of Blazer fans. If my first favorite Trail Blazer was Steve Smith (true story), there are going to be current life-long Blazer fans that never saw him play, just like I wasn't alive to connect with Jim Paxson like Timmay did. I've come to appreciate that, taking my place along with the rest of my generation in the long line of Trail Blazer fans.
Being the same age as athletes makes you feel inadequate and empathetic simultaneously. You wish you could be playing professional basketball for a living, but also know what comes with the territory: all the pressure on the shoulders of young men still trying to find their way in the world.
I'm 23 years old, the same age as Thomas Robinson, older than C.J. McCollum and less than a year younger than Damian Lillard. Welcome to my new reality of being a Trail Blazer fan.
What Trail Blazer do you remember being the same age as? Who were the most relatable Blazers for you growing up? Add them in the comments below!