Dear Kevin Hart, I am you and you are me. And yes, I’ve learned to respect being 44 years old

OPINION: The comedian ended up in a wheelchair because he thought he could beat an ex-NFL running back, 34-year-old Stevan Ridley, in a footrace.

Kevin Hart speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt 2022 on October 19, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

When I saw a recent IG post from Kevin Hart about how he ended up in a wheelchair — and why — I felt my brother with my whole heart. You see, Kevin Hart, who seems to be in really good shape based on what I see on social media, got into an age-old argument with a younger, possibly more in-shape and likely faster FORMER PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE. What is that age-old, solvable argument? Who is faster?

Kevin got into this debate with former New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, who made it to the highest rungs of professional football and is 10 years younger than Kevin. For me, this wasn’t going to end well, period. But it ended even worse than I think everybody expected. You see, the two men decided to run the 40-yard dash and instead of just finding out who was faster, Kevin found out that he was not invincible (vincible?) and ruined his whole day. According to his Instagram post, he tore up his lower abdomen and abductors (I also don’t know what those are) and ended up in a wheelchair. 

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Hart provided both an update (since folks will likely see him out and wonder what happened because he’s Kevin Hart; y’all remember how pressed we were about Jamie Foxx?) and a public service announcement for those of us who have had the privilege of reaching age 40 or greater and the limitations that may come with such privilege. I appreciate that PSA because I, too, am 44 years old, and I realized that while I used to be able to do all types of things and bounce back quickly, at this point, overexertion of physical stuff just isn’t my ministry. 

I wake up in the morning, and my feet hurt. My back hurts all of the time. My doctor doesn’t have any good reason for this, just that I’m at the age where that stuff starts to happen. I stopped drinking so much years ago because I hated how I felt the next day. When I was in my 20s, I felt NOTHING the next day. I’d be drunk at 3 a.m. and woke fully refreshed at 7 a.m. and kept it pushing. Now, I need multiple days to get my body back right. A good friend of mine who is in his upper 30s decided to race my then-6-year-old on the sidewalk in front of my house. I felt bad that I didn’t race my son, but I knew then that I wasn’t going to finish the race how I started. My friend, though, thought he would be fine. 

Buddy pulled a hamstring racing a 6-year-old. There was no money on the line. There was no pride on the line — he was supposed to beat my son. He was down for a week and needed muscle relaxers and painkillers for racing a child who literally had no concept of not going full speed at all times. 

I tweaked my back standing up. Standing up. I had to go to urgent care for this. STANDING UP. You think I’m going to be a person out there racing ANYBODY, much less a person 10 years my junior whose living was based on how fast and explosive he could be against human brick walls week in and week out? Shoot, I don’t even want to race my children. See, Kevin realized this, and in the video, he said to his son, who was off-camera, that this experience had ruined the possibility of him and his son racing one another. And you know what? That’s smart. As he said, he’s in a wheelchair trying to be the fastest person at the barbecue. And now he’s rolling for a while. 

I get it. I’ve been winded playing with my kids; my arms have been sore the next day, apparently from overexerting myself on things I used to do as part of my daily living. I’m afraid now that I’ll get one of those injuries that never heals. And while I’m a Black man and my life expectancy isn’t the same as some other racial groups, I do hope to be here for a good while longer. How much would it suck to mess up my ankle and it NEVER gets better? One of my best friends tore his Achilles heel playing basketball with his son. Not doing anything crazy, JUST playing basketball. Because we are in our 40s and that’s what happens. 

So Kevin, I feel you, bro. I respect my age, and I appreciate your PSA. Sometimes we all need to hear such things. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.