Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nadal--Greatness and Emotion

One should be careful about declaring that an athlete in any sport will be the best in all time.   Recordings of sporting events from even twenty years ago, make the athletes in those games seem prehistoric when compared to contemporary players.  Chris Evert looked to be the steadiest women's player imaginable. Watching tapes of her now make it seem as if she would be overwhelmed by the power of a Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams.  Some athletes do last the test of time.  Sandy Koufax, for example, may never be equalled.  I don't know if any contemporary basketball player could stop Wilt Chamberlain.  Still, it is risky to look at someone now and say, "Nobody will ever be better than she or he."

However, watching Rafael Nadal today at the French Open made me wonder who will ever be able to beat this guy on clay--and who in any era could defeat him.  Nadal got to everything. Djokovic was making incredible shots only to have Nadal return them incredibly.  Each shot by Djokovic had to take something out of him and for every point he had to pummel the ball several times before it was over.  Nadal gave up on almost nothing forcing Djokovic, even when he won points, to earn them. Djokovic is great. Nadal on clay is sensational.

When he won the fourth and final set 6-4, Nadal reacted as if he had won for the first time. (This was the ninth time he had won this tournament.  His record at Roland Garros is something like 66-1). He yelped with joy, ran into the stands to thank his family and supporters and was all aglow.  And Djokovic was despondent.  A runner up yet again to Nadal at the French.

Nadal earned over two million for winning this tournament.  Djokovic will go home with half of that. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that the reason for the players' reactions was the million dollars.  Now, a million dollars--even in 2014-is still a million dollars.  Nobody in my circle wouldn't do the mambo if they earned a million dollars.  Yet, the reason Nadal jumped for joy had nothing to do with the money--and not just because he is loaded.  The reason why Djokovic was sad was not because he missed out on a million. I would be surprised that either of them thought about the money as they played or in the aftermath of the match.

Emotion, not shekels, runs the show.   Sure, you need enough money to eat, live in comfortable surroundings, feel safe, and be able to get around.  Without that, money is a motivator. But with that, a motivator at least as important--but likely more important than money--is emotion.  This is why sports plays such a central role in contemporary society.  People get happy when their team wins. New York Ranger fans, including myself, let out a loud sad sound last night when the Kings prevailed in double overtime. Not because they lost a bet.  Ranger fans are sad today and Rafael Nadal is happy and the owner of California Chrome is livid, for reasons that are not primarily related to money.

No comments:

Post a Comment