In sports, the emphasis is always on youth. Great players are shooting stars across the sky of their respective sports. Alas, like those shooting stars their paths are all too brief, and then they flame out and disappear from view.
The other day Roger Federer won the first two sets at Wimbledon in London in the quarterfinals. Anytime he has done this before in his career – 178 times to be exact – Federer has won the match. But this time was a different story. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back and won the next three sets. There is no question that the Federer of the past is no longer out there on the court. Tsonga (26) simply overcame Federer (29) with power and resilience and broke his serves. It would not have happened a few years ago. Federer has to face the facts about his game, just as all the tennis greats like Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras have had to do.
Last week Tiger Woods (35) announced that he would not compete in the AT&T National. In golf older men have had much success, but one has to remain healthy and in shape. There is no question that Woods has always been into training, but his body is not “healthy” enough to compete. Again, as with Federer, reality rears its ugly head. Tiger is feeling all too human these days, and even with that sex scandal behind him and a lucrative endorsement for a Japanese company announced, Woods is realizing he is only human.
And then there is Derek Jeter, the perennial All Star shortstop for the New York Yankees. Jeter (37) has struggled this season (as he did last year), and ended up on the disabled list. The Yankee captain has been a great player for many years, but his body is starting to send signals to him that he may not want to receive. His hitting and fielding have been substantially compromised by the calendar, and whether or not the fans want to accept it, Jeter has to know that he better not turn around, because Father Time is gaining on him.
These three great sports figures have given fans many years of excellence, but the truth is that no one can expect to see their stars play forever. In each of these cases, we must appreciate their contributions to their respective sports but also know that attrition hits everyone. Even Jeter’s teammate, the great closer Mariano Rivera, will someday see his powers diminish. It is just a fact of life.
The question one can ask is, when do these guys throw in the proverbial towel? How long do they continue to push themselves to perform? While we expect that they must obviously see that their production is diminishing, perhaps they overestimate their contribution to the game. Whatever the case, don’t expect any of these gentlemen to retire any time soon.
Maybe they should leave when they can still make that decision, or perhaps there will come a time when each one of these guys will face the inevitable after failing. Today Roger Federer had to see the truth in what Tsonga did to him. We television viewers certainly saw it and everyone in that stadium did too. Tiger has put himself on the shelf, Jeter on the disabled list. It’s obvious that time is not on their side; in fact, it’s not on anyone’s side whether he or she is a player or a fan in the stands. Perhaps that’s the toughest truth of all.
photo credit – BBC.com