I'll never see 50 again.

I don't say this proudly.

I say it ruefully.

Sadly even.

And yet, I'm happy to be alive and semi-vigorous.

But 30 was better than 50, as was 40.

The truth shall set you free if you can stand the pain.

Those middle-aged and elderly folks who take pride in their own and their relatives' mere survival ("Grandma's 90 and she gummed a whole cookie yesterday!") always remind me of the folks who proudly display bumper stickers applauding their grandchildren's grade-school accomplishments.

Now don't get me wrong. My mother is a hale and hearty 86 young.

She was pleased by the fact that she was never even offered a seniors discount at her favorite haunts until she reached her early 70s.

She doesn't talk much about being proud of living well into her ninth decade, but she still walks at least a mile every day, quit smoking at 65 and has cut her daily wine and whisky intake (hey, she's Irish) to one or two drinks.

I'm happy she is still around and hope she lasts forever (knock on wood).

But I am thankful for her longevity, not proud.

The accidents of genetics, envi-ronment and just plain luck preclude me getting all jacked up over Mom's long time above ground. I feel it's to nobody's credit, except God (god?) - if such a personage exists. (Nobody has returned to tell us for sure. Even Houdini, who could get out of everything and promised to come back, never made it.)

As far as your grandchildren being honor students, all I can say is, if you're life is so empty all you can be proud of is the end results of your children's unprotected sex lives, you are quickly approaching the borders of patheticland.

Now I have two grandsons, and I love them. See them as often as I can. Toss ball with the active one, read books with the quieter, more sedentary kid. But I don't think the sight of two healthy boys bearing my name - both daughters hyphenated - is any cause for pride.

For enjoyment, yes.

A reason to be thankful to Fate (god again?), yes.

But pride? No way, José.

What brought this train of thought down the crumbling tracks of my post-50 mind happened the other night as I was returning, late, from the phone factory (my second job, in market research).

The Sonics had played that night and staved off the inevitable defeat by San Antonio for another couple of days.

A little fat guy weighted down with gold chains, a Sonics jersey and a Sonics jacket, was waiting near Larry's to get on the bus I was exiting.

"What happened?" I asked this short little bespectacled guy, who smelled like a brewery and seemed to be looking up at the three-step entrance to the Metro like Hillary once peered up Everest.

"We beat their ass," this specimen of inertia said proudly.

"How many did you get, Ace?" I said, and heard the driver trying, and failing, to stifle a laugh.

At least half of "our" Sonics won't be back next year.

Ray Allen, the star of this year's surprising crew, is a free agent and rumored to be asking for a $70-million contract. This from a team that loses money every year, and whose owner, the richest coffee boy in the world named Howard, is asking those of us working two jobs to "help" him finance a new arena, even though the old one isn't paid up yet.

I went to my one game this year. I'll go to my one game next year, Ray Allen or not.

I'll root for the Sonics because I live here, but I won't mistake the overpaid mercenaries on the court, or the rich yuppie owner leading the cheers at courtside, as being in any way "mine" or "yours" or "ours."

Big sports is big business. And just because you shell out a couple hundred dollars for replica gear of "your" team doesn't make you part of anything other than Howard's profit-and-loss sheet. You are a consumer unit for a big business that will field a team next year even if all 12 of our Sonics commit mass suicide.

The Storm won the WNBA title less than a year ago. The sports pages showed the team pointing at the championship banner the other day. At least half the women pictured weren't playing here on last season's championship team.

I love golf. I like Charles Howell and Nick Price. I like it when they do well. But their golf doesn't make me a better golfer.

I'm still a 24-handicap, and the only time I should be proud of golf is when I do something good on the course.

We are a nation of watchers.

We watch Bush's war and cheer like it's the Sonics.

We watch the Sonics and cheer as if they belong to us, not Li'l Howie.

We watch television and talk about The Donald. America's next tuneless Idol. Britney's sad little marriage.

As a group we use more than 60 percent of the world's processed cocaine, and lock up more of our citizens than any other "civilized" country in the world, many of them nonviolent offenders using the drugs we can't seem to keep out of our country.

We are growing by leaps and bounds, one in four of us now obese and almost half of us overweight.

We seem to prefer the sidelines to the field. Courtside to the court.

And we seem to prefer our accomplishments to come easy. By watching.

The trouble with all that is, you can't get no real satisfaction if it's all secondhand. Mick said it, and Mick knows. Mick (if you read the tabloids, you know) isn't watching - he's still living large.

You gotta do it yourself.

Ray Allen, your grandkids, and your elderly relatives can't do it for you.

The Sonics eventually lost. Not you.

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