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Are We Missing Out When Athletes Retire on Top?


Serena, like Federer, is 41 and regarded by many to be the game’s biggest of all time. Their playing days may be behind them, but each stays a world icon, and standing as a world icon is a bit like a Supreme Court appointment: Once you’ve gotten it, it’s your job for all times. It’s also a lucrative one. The concept a star athlete may be price extra money retired than energetic isn’t exactly recent — Arnold Palmer’s profession golf earnings were $2 million, while the majority of his estimated $700 million estate was earned through endorsements long after his competitive days were over — but in a world crazed for each content and heroes, the stakes of creating a narratively canny exit feel higher than ever. Legacy-building can’t be left to probability. Federer has already been the main target of multiple documentaries; Williams has been chronicled in a five-part HBO series and had her youth depicted, alongside her sister’s, in last yr’s Oscar-winning dramatization “King Richard.” The motivation to make the leap from player to personality while still adjoining to the winner’s circle is immense.

The Swiss tennis player leaves the sport with one in every of the best competitive records in history.

  • An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the primary time in years, the sport’s future is unpredictable,” the creator David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.
  • A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon can have been more fitting. However the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, offered a smart final act for one in every of the best players of this era.
  • Two Great Rivals: When players retire from individual sports like tennis, their rivalries go along with them. Here’s a have a look at a few of one of the best matches that pitted Federer against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
  • Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, together with Nadal and Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a recent generation of hungry players, able to muscle their way into the breach.

This was not at all times the case — removed from it. The sides of sports history are affected by specters just like the aging Johnny Unitas, fecklessly playing out the string as a San Diego Charger, and Willie Mays, slumming as a past-his-prime Recent York Met. No complete biography of either man will ever be written without some significant reference to those sad and flailing years, through which they burned off parts of their legacy for a couple of final paychecks and a probability at adulation — the part where the good man, taking the sector, commands his body to perform the old heroic acts and is betrayed, many times, by those “ravages of age.”

Personally, I’m ambivalent concerning the much tidier exits of today’s greats. I type of miss the tragic model. For the aging athlete to proceed grinding away, at the same time as their physical prowess begins to fail them, is in some ways a noble act of self-effacement, an abandonment of private vanity, a repayment of the karmic debt of their natural abilities. We as a society currently stand on the intersection of contemporary medicine, baby-boomer vivacity and magical considering, indulging in adult-adolescent fantasies of everlasting youth, waving away the menacing creep of time. If sports is a metaphor for all times — and it higher be, for on a regular basis it takes — I ponder if on some level we don’t do ourselves a disservice by watching our heroes bow out on a grace note. Parts of life’s ride are going to get ugly; injury, loss and defeat are coming for us all. To witness, in real time, the humbling of great athletes — and to see them endure it with dignity and grit, at the same time as the outcomes carry them further and farther from former glory — may be one in every of the good things sports has to show us.

Over these previous couple of months, a miracle occurred that split the difference. Albert Pujols is 42 and in his twenty second season playing major-league baseball. For the primary 10 years of that profession, he was mainly Babe Ruth — a hitter of such generational talent that it strained credulity. Over the second 10 years, he went from pretty good to mediocre to downright bad, and plenty of a commentator remarked on how sad it was to see a once-perfect hitter break down. And yet Pujols persevered, catching on as a bench player with the Los Angeles Dodgers after being released by one other team, and eventually rejoining his original team, the St. Louis Cardinals, for yet another yr. It was, essentially, a sentimental gesture.

But then something weird happened: He got really, really good again. His swing locked in. He began hitting home runs at his early profession rate, passing 700 for his profession, an enormous benchmark in baseball. He led his team to a division title. All of it got here out of nowhere, essentially the most romantic possible final result for a player who had — in many individuals’s eyes — come to function a cautionary tale, an argument for getting out while the getting’s good.

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