Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why, oh why, do they come back

Why , Oh Why, do they come back ?

Don’t look back. Don’t ever look back. Please. You are an all time great. You have millions of adoring fans. You have made enough money. Yes, I know that the road forward seems only downhill and the wonders of the lands you have just passed is fatally alluring. But bite your tongue. Thrust your chin forward. Go forward. And don’t look back.

This could be true for any one of us, that is if you slightly discount the millions of fans and the enough money bit. But it is so so true for sportsmen. Its really tough not to look back – but alas, many succumb to the temptation.

Look at Michael Schumacher. Why did he do this. He had achieved all that there was to be achieved. And yet he comes back. To be scrapping with teammate Nico Rosberg for 10th place, and losing. Remember the days when the mere presence of Schumi on the track would be enough to strike terror in the hearts of opponents.

Michael Jordan was a case who both proved and disproved the theory. When he went away first time after “three peating” – Ah the wonders of American English – he could only stay away for 2 years. He came back and picked it up where he left and won three more. Went away and again came back after 2 years. This time, well; let's leave it at that.

Women in tennis are particularly prone to this affliction. Probably because they come very early to the game and retirement age is 25. That’s cruel. They come back and then struggle. Kim Clijsters and Justin Henin recently bucked the trend – they came back and won. But I think they will rapidly slip away.

The saddest sight is that of Lance Armstrong in this year’s Tour de France. Firstly he beat cancer. That was without a doubt his biggest victory. After brain surgery and extensive chemotherapy, he went on to win the most grueling of sport – the Tour de France, seven consecutive times. Nobody had come remotely close to that before. For years, the sight of Armstrong in a yellow jersey (the colour of the leader) dominated cycling. In 1995, after winning for the seventh time, he bowed out unconquered. And then, what does he do – he came back last year. He lost, but was at least competitive. This year, he is in the 25th place today. And we haven’t even got to the Pyrenees.

There are of course, those, who went out with great grace and never looked back. Don Bradman was one – after leading the arguably greatest team of all, the post war Aussies, in the Ashes, he went out when he was at the very peak. And a little man emulated it some 40 years later. For years, he had carried his country on his shoulders virtually single handedly. When he was still the best, he decided to go. The setting was Bangalore. Against the old enemy. The ball was turning square. In a minefield of a pitch, he stood alone, the Little Master. He was on an altogether different planet. India lost narrowly. But as the shadows lengthened, he walked away, unbowed, the greatest of them all. He never came back.

That's the way to go. Why, Oh Why, do they get tempted to look back.