Mr. Anonymous getting better with age
He laid out the master plan way back in 2010, just days after adding to his growing list of national championships.
He was going to hang in until the Pan Am Games in Toronto five years hence, so he could play where family and friends could watch him. Then he’d retire from the court. Meaning, he should be long done by now.
Mike Green pauses when he’s reminded of this. “That was stupid,” he laughs. What he didn’t realize back then is that he is Benjamin Button with a racquet. Not only is he apparently impervious to aging, but time in his world seems to be going backward.
The most successful local athlete you’ve never heard of — actually, you have, you just don’t remember because it’s racquetball and, honestly, who around here pays attention to racquetball? — may be 43, now which is ancient in a young man’s game. Yet somehow, as the salt increases and the pepper decreases, he might be getting better.
On the weekend, he won a tournament in Calgary that earned him a spot on Team Canada and a ticket to April’s Pan Am Championships (different from the Pan Am Games) in Costa Rica.
Despite being rusty after a fourmonth layoff, he didn’t drop a single set against the best players in the land. In the final, he swept an opponent who wasn’t even born in 1993 when Green made his first national team.
Not surprisingly, the topic of when he’s finally going to quit comes up now and again among the other players.
“They’re asking me all the time,” he says. His new answer: some day. He truly thought it would’ve been before now. Shortly before those Pan Am Games he ruptured his meniscus, which required surgery. He rushed back causing his knee to swell grotesquely after each time on the court, which made him believe he was done. He kept playing through the discomfort — and winning — but for a year-and-a-half, he was a physical mess.
Eventually, he took four months off, because there really wasn’t another option, returning to action shortly before this tournament. And now that he’s back? “I feel great. I feel like I’m 25.” That’s bad news for everyone else in the game who was probably hoping he’d recover nicely, but find another hobby during his time away so they’d have a chance to win once in a while.
Except that was always unlikely. With 10 national singles titles and nine doubles crowns on his mantle, he’s on the cusp of becoming the greatest of all time.
His 11th singles championship — which he could claim in May — would break the record he shares right now with Canadian racquetball legend Sherman Greenfeld. A title of any kind would match the record 20 held by Jen Saunders who has nine singles and 11 doubles wins.
“I won’t become an alcoholic if I don’t get it,” Green quips. “But, I wouldn’t mind it.”
This gaudy resume puts him up there with any athlete from Hamilton.
Except, again, he’s done it in racquetball.
The only way he could have guaranteed himself more anonymity is if he’d been a perpetual winner of the Witness Protection Program’s annual hide-and-go-seek tournament.
He’s never been a finalist for the Golden Horseshoe Athlete of the Year Award, as this area’s top athlete. Heck, after winning that record-tying 10th national singles title last year, he wasn’t even nominated.
So, he just remains in the background thinking less about retirement than ever before. Instead, he’s now looking even further down the road. He mentions the next Pan Am Games that are in Lima, Peru in 2019.
“It sounds like a fun place to go play racquetball for 10 days,” he says. Would that be it then? Before the question hangs there too long, he points out that Los Angeles is bidding for the 2024 Olympics. The host country — which will be announced in September — gets to hand-pick a number of sports to be included. The Americans are very, very good at racquetball. There have been rumblings it could be included. Yes, but he’d be 50 then. Could he really still be doing it at that age?
“If it was ever announced,” he simply says, “I’d start gunning for it.”
Hearing that answer, a whole bunch of Canadian racquetball players just groaned.
At 43, Hamilton’s Mike Green seems impervious to aging, as he continues to dominate racquetball in Canada.