Who knows what goes on in any athlete’s head, but he comes across as someone who has genuinely found a way to solve the three brutal overlapping problems that come for any really great athlete late in his or her career. Namely, how to a) keep up the phenomenal and borderline terrifying level of motivation required to commit to nonstop training and preparation after you’ve already realized all your goals, while b) making peace with the fact that you not only aren’t as good as you once were but in fact are doomed to get worse, while c) maintaining a realistic, evolving sense of what you can do so that you know how to plan and when to feel proud, frustrated, optimistic, etc.
No one thought Joe Theismann was soft for leaving the game when his leg was hanging sideways. Sometimes the brain goes sideways, and when that happens, “brave” or “cowardly” shouldn’t even come into it. Seeking help is just the practical thing to do.
The show out-noired noir by recognizing that the most extreme context for modern alienation was not the mean streets of the detective story but a white-collar bureaucracy that extended infinitely above the main protagonists — literally into space — and that threatened to control them without their knowing how or why.
Legacy is a marketing tool; it exists for the convenience of people who want to sell you something. It has nothing to do with the athlete, whose accomplishments aren’t going to change if he plays past his prime, literally aren’t going to change at all, because Skip Bayless doesn’t own a time machine. Legacy is a post-Jordan, made-up idea that glorifies “going out on top” as part of a corporate strategy, presuming that fans don’t have memories and can’t cope with the complexity of a human life. Legacy belongs in the same pile of bogus thought-propaganda as “controlling the narrative” and “personal brand.”
One of the things I love about sports is that they let you spend time communing with trepidation and panic without making you face any consequences.
How big a role has court technology played in tennis’s current golden age?
As the different court surfaces are modified to play more similarly, players whose game is well-suited to those physics will dominate more and more. I’d never thought about this before.
Maybe relevant here: The same four players have won every major and Olympic gold medal except one in the past eight years. That’s 34 big titles for Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Andy Murray, and one for every other tennis player on earth.
You hit 30, 35, 40, and the life of a professional athlete seems more and more remote. It’s one of a million pasts that never happened rather than a future you can dream about. And the experience of the coach is simply much more accessible to almost every grown-up fan than the experience of any high-level player. And not just because so many fans go on to coach their kid’s T-ball team or whatever; think of it as a lifestyle question. The coach doesn’t have to be able to score from an overhead kick or throw a football 80 yards; he has to run meetings, make plans, juggle lists, and justify himself, same as anybody. He does paperwork. Maybe hops on the treadmill when he can. He’s still connected to the magic of sports, but with him it takes the form of inspired halftime speeches and brilliant late-game stratagems — basically work e-mail lifted to a spiritual plane. More than anything, he has to watch a ton of games: obsess about what’s not working, get mad at players who screw up, praise players who do well.
Reblogging so I can enjoy this phrase a little longer: “Oklahoma City’s free-jazz marionette of a superstar and its hailstorm of a point guard”.