Boy, do I feel old. I feel older than dust. I feel older than Methuselah. I feel older than Methuselah’s kindergarten teacher.
Are you ready for this?
Shawn Burr is having a baby.
I gotta sit down.
Not Shawn himself, of course. Shawn and his wife, Amanda. It was when Shawn married Amanda that I began to feel old in the first place. The day they said
“I do” my knees began to creak. Young Shawn Burr? Married?
And now they’re expecting? I need air. Nurse!
For those of you unfamiliar with Burr, let me point him out in the Red Wings locker room. There. In the corner. No, not the one next to the little blond boy. The little blond boy himself! That’s him. That’s Shawn. He’s the most likable, laughable, non-shavable athlete I’ve ever met. He still has his baby fat; now he’ll have a baby to go with it.
I can’t wait for the family portrait:
PHOTOGRAPHER: “Excuse me, Miss, will I be shooting the infant or his brother?”
SHAWN: “Hey! Cut it out!”
Now. All kidding aside, I want to say I am very happy for the Burrs. And I am sure they will make great parents. Shawn is a wonderful, friendly, spirited person. But how old is he? Nine? Look in the media guide. It says Shawn is .
. . let’s see . . . 26 yea-
Wait a minute. When did that happen?
“Yep, I’m 26,” he says proudly. He says this in a bar- mitzvah voice. He says this with white-blond hair and baby blue eyes. If you saw Shawn Burr on a street corner at 8 a.m., you’d figure a school bus would be pulling up any minute.
And he’s having a baby? This spring?
Where’s my medication? A hockey player in trouble?
“When we first thought Amanda was pregnant, I went to the drugstore for one of those home pregnancy tests, you know?” Burr tells me Thursday in the Wings locker room. “I walked around the aisle four times before I got the nerve to buy one.
“Then, when I went to the counter, the lady looked at me like I was some kid who got his teenage girlfriend pregnant. I think she felt sorry for me. She looked at me like, ‘Hmm, too bad.’ “
Amazing. I am listening to Burr talk about babies and home- pregnancy tests, and I am thinking of the “Knock-Knock” jokes he used to tell in the locker room. I am thinking of the time he went to West Berlin and posed with a border guard — then stuck “bunny fingers” behind his head.
I am thinking of him in . . . Lamaze class?
“Is that with the breathing and all that?” he says. “Oh yeah. We gotta go to that. Starting this month.”
Hmm. I can just see it.
INSTRUCTOR: “I’m sorry, Miss, your son will have to wait outside.
SHAWN: “Hey! Cut it out!”
Can we let this happen? Shouldn’t someone jump in here? A teammate, perhaps?
“Hey, Paul,” I yell to Paul Ysebaert. “Did you know Shawn’s gonna be a father?”
He shakes his head and shrugs.
Un-bleeping-believable. Now, I admit, this may be more my problem than Shawn’s. I’m the one who suddenly feels old and wrinkled. Sports writers absorb their age through the milestones of the athletes they cover. A star emerges, you are there with him. He retires, a piece of you retires.
But Shawn Burr? He was always the kid on this team — even when he wasn’t the youngest. I remember his first year. I remember when he dyed his hair tri-color: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.
Now he’s learning “Rock-A-Bye-Baby”?
“My father-in-law is a pretty good artist,” he says. “He’s gonna paint a room in our house with ‘The Teddy Bear Picnic’ characters.”
Really? What will he paint the baby’s room?
Aw, just kidding, Shawn. What to name the new one?
To be perfectly honest, this is fine news. Burr should be a great father. He is kind, generous. He already likes cartoons. He says he thought about waiting until after his NHL career was over, “but then the kid will never get a chance to see what his Dad did for a living.
“Besides, I’ve always been responsible.”
This is true — even though, with his looks, he still could go trick-or-treating. But listen to Burr’s logic on baby names: “If it’s a boy, we’ll call him Spencer. That way he’ll have the same initials as me, so he can use the same towels, luggage and stuff.”
If that’s not responsible, what is?
So Shawn Burr is gonna be a daddy. And my back is suddenly killing me. Why is it that everyone else keeps growing up, while I stay the same?
Who knows? Why is it that a team picked to win the Stanley Cup is barely above .500 right now? Which brings up one final point. You’re never too young in hockey. So, the way the Wings are going, if it’s boy, Shawn, you might want to give him a stick.
And bring him down to practice.
Mitch Albom will sign “Live Albom III” tonight at 7, Little Professor, Farmington, and Saturday at 1 p.m., B. Dalton, Briarwood Mall, Ann Arbor, and 3:30, B. Dalton, Fairlane Mall, Dearborn.