This past weekend, as I do almost every weekend, I watched a variety of different handball matches featuring U.S. National Team players. One of those matches had circle runner, Drew Donlin, and his Spanish club team Leon taking on Guadalajara. And, in goal for Guadalajara was a blast from the past, Jose Javier Hombrados. I say a “blast from the past” in that he was playing back when I was playing, but I guess if you’re still playing… well, then you’re still the “present”.
And, at age 49, he’s still getting the job done in the Liga ASOBAL. His reaction speed is still pretty decent and as many matches as he’s played he’s got a ridiculous experience advantage over every player he’s up against. He read Drew Donlin pretty well on this wide open 6 meter opportunity. See how he leaves one side of the goal covered and one side wide open. Except it’s not so wide open because he’s moved out from the goal. He patiently waits for the shot and deftly stops it with his arm.
More highlights from the match: Link
Side note 2: If you want you can check out Hombrados yourself he plays live on Wednesday as Guadalajara takes on Cuenca at 2000 before the EHF CL Quarterfinals: Direct Video Link
6 Degrees of J.J. Hombrados
Kevin Bacon has been in a lot of movies and it’s been noted that just about any actor can be connected to him pretty quickly. As the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Wikipedia explains with this example:
- Ian McKellen
- Ian McKellen was in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) with Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy
- McAvoy and Fassbender were in X-Men: First Class (2011) with Kevin Bacon
- Therefore, McAvoy and Fassbender have Bacon numbers of 1, and McKellen has a Bacon number of 2.
For Handball it works the same way. Here’s 1 example;
- John Ryan
- I played for the U.S. vs Sweden (Stefan Olsson, Robert Hedin, etc) at the 1993 World Championships
- (Olsson, Hedin, etc) played for Sweden vs Spain (Hombrados) at the (I’m sure they played against him several times)
- Olsson and Hedin have an Hombrados number of 1, I have an Hombrados number of 2
I suspect almost every pro or national team player for the last 40 years or so has a Hombrados number of 1 or 2. Amateurs all over the world have an Hombrados number of 3.
In some respects this is less remarkable than it might first appear. If one plays even just 1 match vs a big star it opens one up to a lot of possible connections because that big star has probably played a lot of matches vs a lot of teams. One could do this with a number of other players and get similar results. Kiril Lazarov and Nikola Karabatic would be two examples for sure.
However, what separates Hombrados is the length of his active career. He’s been playing professionally for 31 seasons. 31 seasons! Kiril Lazarov was just 10 years old when he started out. Think about it… Back in 1990 he probably played some matches against some players in their mid to late 30s. Somebody, say 37, who would now be 68 years old today. That senior citizen, via Hombrados, is now directly connected with 18 year old players just starting their careers in 2021. Some old guys on the couch in Spain are watching, surely chuckling to themselves and feeling a little bit younger with the comforting knowledge they can still say, “Yeah, I played against him” when they watch a match.
2 Generations, 3 Generations… Do I Hear 4?
Here’s another way of looking at it. There are a number of father-son handball player combos where the father and son have played against common players. Think Talant Dujshebaev and his sons, Alex and Daniel. Or Jackson Richardson and his son Melvyn. They’ve all played against or even with athletes like Lazarov or Karabatic. But, the length of Hombrados’s career pushes it to the possibility of 3 generations all playing against him. Yes, it wouldn’t surprise me if indeed it’s true, that some grandfathers in Spain can share personal experience tips on Hombrados with their grandsons. And, it one wants to stretch the generational math just a little bit… 4 generations (great grandfather, grandfather, father and son) could theoretically be possible.
If Hombrados keeps making saves like he did this past Saturday and if he wants too keep playing that just might happen in a few years.