Sunday, 29 October 2017

Draft Pick: Great Resilience

[I have at least a hundred draft blogs that I haven't published. Seeing that I am working on a few well-researched posts, I think it's a good time to release these sulking thoughts from the confines of the bench and into the bedlam that is the real world]

I: Written some time in August 2015

It's a familiar story.

At the end of every year commentators, sports writers and critics bring out a set of eulogies announcing the demise of yet another star player. It is a remarkable study in coordination, for the obituaries are similar and their glorious assessment of the sports player in question is marked by a dressing of pity.

These gurus can't be strictly mocked. It is a fact that a huge gamut of players undergo the steps of the product life cycle diagram (I am a student at a B school after all).

Books are published, interviews are scheduled and the verdict is quickly absorbed by the masses so that most of us share a feeling of dismissal for the once venerated player. Life's like that.

Except there are people - a handful of them today - who throw these premature judgement out of the window and into the gutter.

Lionel Messi is a case in point. No one would dare place him in the bracket of a has been. But over the course of a year whispers steadily strengthened to declarations that he was no longer that Messi the world admired. He had lost the Ballon D'Or to Cristiano Ronaldo, and before the start of this year, he was hopelessly behind him in the number of goals scored. Barcelona were flailing helplessly while Real Madrid were marching imperiously to the Liga title. Messi was fed up of the team he played for all his life. The world was changing.

Roger Federer is another, perhaps stronger example. It's been close to five years since the first set of journalists predicted his eviction from the top tier of tennis; the last couple have solidly questioned the damage played on his legacy if he dare continue. And they have a point. I mean Roger hasn't won a Grand Slam major since Wimbledon 2012 (even that was won after many outright dismissals of his chances). He's 33 for God's sake. Some of the commentators retired much before - at that age they were certainly not playing at the level Roger's at. But last year's run and the victory at Dubai over Novak Djokovic have wrecked havoc with these predictions. Not even a third round exit from the Australian Open could dampen the feeling of awe one felt for Roger's brilliance. No one has missed the transition in his playing style. How many greats can change their game the way he did?

More than sporting talent though my post posits we ought to spend our moments thinking about the belief these greats have in themselves. It is extraordinary - the world spent its collective breath elbowing the likes of Sachin Tendulkar (excuse the pun) out of the sport. And these people persevered. I cannot know if they were affected by the articles written and verdicts passed but I admire the way they dismissed the wave of dismissals.

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