Sunday, June 7, 2009

viva la federer

The NBC announcer commented at the end of the French Open that "viva la federer" may finally be the chant in Paris. Roger Federer, after several failed attempts in the finals--including an ignominious defeat last year when he just got shellacked--won the only Grand Slam tennis tournament that had previously eluded him.

If you don't understand the appeal of sports you are probably not reading this blog, but in case you are still curious about the attraction of march madness to sports fans, or why people spend four straight days watching basketball games--you might have gained some insight after watching the last few points and moments of the French Open.

Federer was serving for the match at 5-4 and had an easy volley at 30-30. He not only missed it, but missed it badly. Having lost four consecutive french open finals, this miss made viewers wonder if he was tight.

What could he be tight about? The guy is loaded. He is probably the best tennis player ever to play the game. He has won Wimbledon, The Australian, the USOPEN, and dozens of other tournaments. Why should he be tight? The camera swung to his mother in the stands and then his wife. Both looked apprehensive. At break point, Soderling--the opponent--miss hit a shot and brought the game back to deuce. All viewers could sense Federer's relief.

When Federer won the next point bringing the game to match point, it looked like he started to tear. The fans were cheering for him to prevail. When he did, Roger Federer--a man who has more money than anyone needs--dropped to his knees and cried. The stadium exploded with congratulations.

So, what is the appeal of sport? Why does a man who wins matches and tournaments more regularly than mail is delivered, drop to his knees when he wins another tournament. He does because sport, for players and spectators, engages our emotions. And we humans are emotional beings. Our hearts, not our heads, run the show. Despite any and all attempts to map out our lives on the basis of rational wisdom, we succumb--when we are wise--to the realization that we are driven by emotion. The lucky ones of us are smart enough to drop to our knees and tear when someone, something, or we ourselves have nourished our hearts.

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