In sports, most things are in black and white. And this is precisely why both success and failure are magnified in enormous proportions, if success spawns a million of myths throwing logic out the window then failure triggers all sorts of controversies, making plenty of room for intrigue. Yet, it is fascinating simply because it has less grey area than life in general.

Sports, as much a vehicle to stardom and celebrity as it can be, seldom showers kindness on sportsmen who are on the other side of their careers. Unlike other professionals, sportsmen have a very short span of time, and especially in the modern world, where the demands and expectations are hyperbolically high, the situation is even worse.

Only very few extraordinary sportsmen ever manage to overcome this harsh reality – they are the ones who stand up to such great challenge – the ones who are special.

Special because in a world where the clock ticks faster than anywhere else in the world, where a whole career seems to be a blur in the eternal race of time, if there is something that we take in as reassuring constancy, it is the endurance of these few athletes.

But then what is about this selected few that makes them cut through all barriers? What is it that drives them to carry on under such adverse and perverse conditions?

In more than two decades of following sport, more often than not, it is all about perspiration, it is about perseverance, extraordinary courage in the face of formidable odds, and above the all the strength of will and passion. For, there is nothing quite as awe-inspiring as sheer strength of will that drives a person to glory and greatness.

Yet, even for seasoned sportsmen, who have the rare combinations of level-headed approach and infinite patience, dealing with retirement is a strange business. Whether they welcome or resist depends on the individual, and quite often it is the latter.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a selfish decision, no such thing as a self-less decision. Decisions are either good or bad. Every sportsman is different and everyone makes their decisions in their own way. But then, if we ignore other external factors and strictly consider just place and time, there have been at least four kinds of them when it comes to ‘calling it quits’:

The ones who express it at the right place at the right time; they are the chosen lucky ones.

Then comes the ones who express it at the right place at the wrong time or at the wrong place at the right time, they are the majority of them.

And then comes the ones who express it with no feeling, time and place are irrelevant, they are the unemotional robots who are one in a million.

And finally comes the ones who have this huge barrier between themselves and those three words, they are the valiant ones who just keep fighting.

A lot has been said and written about sportsmen who fall into that last category. And even more has been said in cricket, especially in India where there have been endless debates without arriving at any definite conclusion.

On the other hand, what has not been raised is, why would such accomplished sportsmen go through such embarrassment?

What is it that makes them step down the pedestal and look like mere mortals?

What is it that pushes them to let even the ardent of their fans ask ‘why not now’?

Is it the illusion of an individual’s invincibility or is it pride and self-image that prevents to accept the reality for what it is?

The answer is simple, “I love the winning, I can take the losing. But most of all, I love to play”

Those are words of Boris Becker, former tennis player, the key here is ‘love to play’, no matter the humiliations, no matter the risks involved, great sportsmen like to remain ensconced in their own world of dreams, viewing ‘playing’ as the noblest and virtuous of all sports ideals.

But then is it all too realistic to hope for such a perfect world? Should they continue to live in a fool’s paradise, cherishing the belief that playing is embodiment of all that is virtuous, all that is good and glorious and transcendental among all sports ideals?

At the outset, it may sound a bit ridiculous, but remember great sportsmen do what they always love to do everyday, play, and what they do everyday is work, and no great work goes unrewarded.

Likewise, sports fans do exactly what they always love to do, watch, watch their superheroes play day in day out, and for them, there is nothing more satisfying and rewarding than watching their superheroes relive the old magic, time and again.

Then again, aging is the law of nature, can the wrinkling stars twinkle and shine forever? Sports fans can only hope so!!!

Jay vaidya
Sports Pundit member

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