Lloy Ball cannot be 39, and retiring from volleyball. Wasn't it yesterday he was sitting next to his dad in the postgame presser in Worthen Arena at Ball State, looking disgusted?
It was 1992 -- 19 years ago! Good grief! -- and Ball was a college sophomore then, and his IPFW Mastodons had just lost to top-ranked Stanford in the NCAA semifinals, after pushing the Cardinal to five sets. The Mastodons won the first two sets and then lost the last three, an agonizing fall from grace that, like all such falls from grace, seemed to happen both suddenly and in slow motion all at once.
Ball's dad, Arnie, came in the room first that night. He dropped an armload of folders on the desk with a loud thump, took a seat and sneered, "OK, what do you want to do?"
We wanted to ask why. We wanted to ask what happened. We wanted to know what Lloy, shaking his head next to Arnie, murmured to his dad when someone asked what letter grade Arnie would give his team.
"Lloy says 'Incomplete,'" Arnie said. "But what does Lloy know?"
A lot less then than he knows now, certainly.
What he knows now is that, at 39, he was apparently being sought to play in a fifth Olympics, a reflection of just how far volleyball took the man. He retires, after all, with four Olympic Games and an Olympic gold medal, joining swimmers Matt Vogel and Sharon Wichman as the city's only Olympic gold medalists. And he retires as a man who started out as a kid still learning how to mature on that night in Muncie, and finished as the national team's elder statesman.
Not a bad journey.