Never Too Old to Play
I’ve often thought about the future, when my salt and pepper hair turns permanently silver, what will I be doing?
I dream of waking up, ambling to the back patio and leaning against the deck railing to watch wave after wave crash onto the shore. I’ve thought of eyeing a 150-yard seven-iron shot into the wind and sticking it 5 feet from the pin. I’ve wished for a golden age of driving the country, seeing up close the many wonders I’ve glimpsed on the Discover Channel.
But never, ever would I consider doing what Ken Mink does in his 73rd year on Earth.
It was just last year when Mink was hitting jumper after jumper in his driveway that he thought he could still play.
Yeah, by play he means college ball, like he did in 1956 at Lees (Ky.) Junior College, which abruptly ended when he was dismissed for allegedly soaping the coach’s office with shaving cream.
So after telling his wife, he wrote to several colleges.
Roane State Community College (Harriman, Tenn.) coach Randy Nesbit invited him to play.
“I’m not very good at saying no,” said Nesbit, 50, to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “It’s a gesture of good will to help a fine man find closure. Why not?”
Ever since that acceptance letter, Mink has spent his time, seven to eight hours a week, getting in shape for the upcoming season.
He ran. He played pickup ball. He joined the senior Olympic team (3-on-3, halfcourt) and finished second in tournaments in Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. He even won the Tennessee state free-throw championship by hitting 19 of 20 shots.
His goal is to have enough stamina to play full speed for 10- to 15-minute stretches, though that’s being optimistic. He’s likely to receive a third of that time on the court.
Last month, he visited the school’s doctor, who cleared him to play. Now he’s practicing with his fellow Raiders.
“The team makes allowances for Ken at practice when they need to, and they all encourage him,” Nesbit said in the New Sentinel. “We look to be fairly strong, so hopefully we’ll have some games decided early. I’m sure he’ll have the opportunity to play.
“Our weakness last year was experience; I think I’ve taken care of that.”
Mink commutes 35 miles to the community college and is taking 12 hours of credits.
“I'm in class with a bunch of kids with their hats turned on backwards, but they are all amazed when I tell them what I’m doing,” Mink said in the News Sentinel. “The kids say their grandfathers are my age, and they can't get out of bed. Actually, I am older than the teachers and the school president.”
And he’s nearly twice the age of the school, which was established in 1971.
Mink has ties to the News Sentinel, where he worked as Sunday editor and entertainment editor from 1972-85. He also was city editor of the Kingsport Times (1985-88) and managing editor of the Harrisonburg (Va.) Daily News Record (1988-1998).
He’s the author of So You Want Your Kid to Be a Sports Superstar and plans to write a book about his Roane State experience titled Season From the Past.
Go get'em Mr. Mink. I’m rooting for you.
OUT AT HOME: I’ve had a Facebook page for about a year now. But I’ve never really done anything with it until recently because I thought it was for college kids. But friends from way back, as far as elementary school have found me. It’s fun to catch up with people you used to play straw football with at lunchtime. Facebook does have a purpose.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK: The best pregame warmup I’ve ever seen.