Dan Severn: Still Every Bit the Beast at 55

Bleacher ReportSenior Writer IJuly 21, 2009

I don't follow professional golf.  Actually, the qualifier there is totally unnecessary because it's just as accurate to say I don't follow golf, period—pro, amateur, mini, whatever.  I mention this to explain my tardiness to the Tom Watson Party.  Like most other casual fans who love a good upset, it seemed imperfect to have him lose.

However, like Mark Kriegel over at FOX Sports, I'm a little bored by the age angle.  Instead of focusing on Watson's 59 years, I think the more compelling decision would've been to trumpet the fact that he was going for his first Major victory in over a quarter century, but, hey, that's me.

Regardless, I think Kriegel articulated it perfectly: "golf is a game for 59 year olds. As a celebration of the traditional athletic virtues—endurance, strength and speed—it just doesn't rank."

That's not to say the game is easy; it's simply difficult for different reasons.

As the FOX columnist's foil, he chose George Foreman coming out of retirement at the salty age of 45 to reclaim his heavyweight title.  That's a good choice, as would've been Julio Franco, Dikembe Mutombo, and Randy Couture.

All of the above labored in a more taxing environment than a golf course and did so extremely well into their mid-to-late-40s—impossible numbers for Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and mixed martial arts (respectively).

I got 'em all beat.  Easily.

Or, I should say, Dan Severn does.

That would be the Beast to MMA fans, and he was born June 8, 1954.  In a coincidence that should surprise no one benefiting from the corrective lens of hindsight, the former professional wrestler first breathed fresh air in Flint, MI.  Granted, it was about 35 years before that vomitous, self-aggrandizing blob Michael Moore brought the hard luck town to the fore in Roger and Me.

And 45 years before the Flint Stones at Michigan State re-established it in the nation's eyes.

To say Severn is a veteran of the mixed martial arts arena would be to say that American politicians might not have the public's best interest as their primary concern.

The Greco-Roman wrestling specialist has over 10 official fights, compiling a record of 88-16-7 with 53 submission and 14 knockouts.  He's been battling since Ultimate Fighting Championship IV in 1994 and registered his most recent victory on May 16.

Yes, May 16 of 2009.  Less than a month shy of his 55th birthday.

With all due respect to the grizzled and accomplished vets above (and others I neglected), Dan Severn is the standard for longevity of excellence in athletic achievement.  This man started a career in one of the athletic world's most savage corners at the age of 40.

The Beast embarked on his journey at an age when most pros are beginning to see their own horizon and is still riding today.  But nobody talks about him because he predates the glory days of his chosen sport, and Severn never left.

Prepare for your sense of reality to be warped:

1994—Three fights, including a grueling 16 minute loss to a 28-year-old Royce Gracie.

1995—Seven fights, including two wins over a 27-year-old Oleg Taktarov (one a 30-minute decision), an 18-minute unanimous decision over Tank Abbott, and a loss to Ken Shamrock in the UFC's first Superfight.

1996—Six fights, including a redemptive triumph via 30-minute decision over Shamrock.

1997—Nine fights, including a loss to the younger Mark Coleman, a 20-minute draw with 22-year-old Jeremy Horn, a submission victory over a 23-year-old Paul Buentello, and a 30-minute draw with Kimo Leopoldo at PRIDE 1.

1998—Nine fights, including a 20-minute draw with Pat Miletich.

1999—Seven fights, including nobody of note, but all wins.

2000—10 fights, including a submission loss to a 22-year-old Josh Barnett in the fourth round and a submission loss to a 26-year-old Pedro Rizzo.

2001—Seven fights, including a decision over a 22-year-old Forrest Griffin.

2002—Six fights, all of them wins.

2003—Eight fights where he went 5-1-2.

2004—12 fights, a double-digit annual total, finishing the year at 7-4-1.

2005—Seven fights, 5-2 in the Beast's favor.

2006—Five fights, all of them wins.

2007—Nine fights.  Severn only lost one.

2008—Four fights where Severn went 3-1.

2009—Two fights to date, which Severn has split.

There is simply no way to put what Dan Severn is doing in perspective.  The Beast fought 12 TIMES in 2004, the year he turned 50.  I don't care who he's fighting or how good his opposition is.

The too-cool-for-schoolers will say he's merely picking off the weakest of the herd, working the edges of the MMA universe.  And they're right—Severn is no longer fighting the biggest and brightest of the UFC.

So what?

This cat is 55 years young.  55.  If you're not stunned into silent appreciation by the ongoing feat, chances are you're still awaiting your 25th birthday.  Or you're too bitter and unhappy to be impressed by anything that doesn't have your name attached to it.

Because I'm 30 and played the lightest smattering of rugby as a freshman and sophomore in college.  Basically, my "serious" athletic pursuits ended in high school.

To show for my career, I have torn cartilage in both knees (the left one already having been cleaned up once when I was 18), shredded the ligaments in both thumbs, obliterated everything in both ankles, suffered several serious concussions, frayed my rotator cuff, and my collar bone pops in and out (audibly and visually, but without pain) whenever I make a full revolution with my right arm.

This from a decade spent playing basketball and baseball against other kids and teenagers.

Can you imagine the litany of injuries a guy like Dan Severn could rattle off?  He is, after all, a man who has spent his life fighting well-trained gladiators, not chasing a ball around a field/court.  The object of his game was to inflict agony and to avoid the same; the object of his game is an egregious penalty in mine.

Yet, there stands the Beast, strapping it on for one more go-around, coming to take your milk money.  Even at 55, it's best just to let him have it.

Because Dan Severn may be old enough to be your grandfather.  But if you're fool enough to push him, you're gonna end up calling him Daddy.