For baby boomers, good things have come with age. But bad things have come too. Because as happens with every generation, the torch must pass. What BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes about today is how that torch sometimes passes from one generation to another, even when they’re far younger than we are.
The torch has passed. It always does.
In fact this week it passed twice. The question is, how are we supposed to feel about that?
The big one was on a tennis court. Serena Williams, sometimes rated not just as the best female player of all time but as the best athlete of all time, passed the torch— involuntarily, to be sure— to Naomi Osaka. At the ripe old age of 39, Serena lost in the Australian Open finals to a 23-year-old… biologically at least, young enough to be her daughter.
Then again, even at 39, Serena Williams is more than young enough to be my daughter. Which from where I sit, makes it pretty shocking. Someone young enough to be my daughter apparently now is too old to win.
The other torch was passed in Japan, where a scandal forced an 83-year-old former prime minister to resign as president of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. At first they were going to pass the torch up, replacing the resigning 83-year-old with an 84-year-old former head of Japanese soccer. But in the end, they passed it down, swapping the former prime minister with a current cabinet minister and former Olympic speed skating medalist 27 years his junior… and a woman, no less!
But if you’re old like me, not to worry: in a few other worlds, the torch will keep burning in place. Like football. On Super Bowl Sunday, the matchup was between Tampa Bay’s 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady and Kansas City’s 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes. Except it wasn’t much of a matchup at all. Brady ran roughshod over Mahomes— well, he threw roughshod over him. Forget for the moment that Mahomes had probably the worst game of his career at the most high-profile event in America. Still, a man old enough to be Mahomes’ father took the kid to the woodshed.
Of course Brady’s age doesn’t make him sage. I know my own grown children would have more sense than Brady and be smart enough not to throw the treasured Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy from one boat to another in Tampa Bay. Even my grandchildren probably would. I guess if you play a game for a living, age doesn’t automatically come with a outbreak of wisdom.
And then there’s politics. For many years now, I’ve wanted virtually every torch to pass. Fresh ideas, fresh energy.
Do you realize that before Joe Biden, three out of four American presidents were baby boomers, which these days is the only generation younger than The Greatest. And not just baby boomers, because since Bush, Clinton, and Trump all were born in 1946 and now are 74 years old, they are the leading edge of baby boomers, a.k.a., the oldest of the Boomer generation. I don’t include Biden because, as all the world knows, he’s even older than them. There are many ways to interpret our recent election but one is to see that we replaced a 74-year-old with a 78-year-old. A better than average trade in my book but still, the torch didn’t pass down, it passed up.
Likewise in Congress. The average age in both chambers isn’t all that high: 63 in the Senate, 59 in the House. But hold that up against the Census Bureau’s calculation of the median age in the United States. It’s 38. That median age has been going up, but the age of members of Congress has been going up too.
And the leadership? On the Senate side, the Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, is 70, but his counterpart Mitch McConnell has him beat. McConnell is 78. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 80, while her counterpart across the aisle, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is just a kid. Young enough in fact to be Pelosi’s kid. He’s just 56.
Not that anyone’s age should be held against them. By and large, everyone in the nation’s leadership has a reservoir of energy that many Americans half their ages would envy. Having covered Washington off and on over the years, I can tell you that no one would make it into the ranks of leadership if they didn’t.
Still, many of those torches soon will pass. At the White House, at Capitol Hill. By Mother Nature’s reckoning, they have to. By my reckoning, they should. There is nothing wrong with feeling a pang of nostalgia when the careers of iconic figures begin to fade. But there is also something exciting when someone new pops up and replaces them. In politics, in sports, in entertainment, in art.
So yes, sometimes I feel sad when the torch is passed. Sad, but not always sorry.