Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Does the world need Superman?

The world of sport has had its share of greats and a large collection of all time greats. They have had the world at their feet at some point or the other. Then, in every sport, came a sportsman or a team that did not seem from this world. It looked like Kal-El’s planet sent more than just one Superman to the earthly world of sport. Their performances thrilled and delighted. But they just kept getting stronger and stronger. So much so, that they almost killed the sport they were excelling in. While the world watched them in awe, a certain thought crossed the minds of the followers of sport: Why do we need to watch? We know who is winning!

Does the world need superman? This thought crosses my mind far too often. Sometimes I think, yes, sometimes, a resounding no. The truth, however, lies somewhere in between. Let me take you thru my confusion for a bit. Roger Federer is a superman. The only Grand Slam that he hasn’t won is the French Open. After beating Nadal in Hamburg, Fed has announced his intentions and stamped his form loud and clear. We know there’s no beating him at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows and Melbourne. Only the red clay at Roland Garros acted as Kryptonite for Roger Federer. It seems that superman has started becoming immune to kryptonite too.

Yes, Federer deserves to win the French open and join Laver & Budge as a winner of all four slams. But after that we might see, for quite some time, only one smiling face at the end of each slam. The story was so similar with Lance Armstrong and the Tour De France. The story was so similar with a Michael Schumacher from 2000-2004. My goodness me! Schumi almost killed the sport in 2002 and 2004. Such was his dominance that Simon Barnes wrote a column titled: Michael Schumacher, The serial winner who murdered Formula One. He wrote there, "He is one of the great serial champions of all time and he killed his sport with his brilliance, murdered it with the thousand cuts of excellence". Simon Barnes went on to further add "the most exciting thing in Formula One is the question of when Schumacher is going to stop for petrol."

That was so damn true. Fans like me loved Schumacher winning, but even his die-hard lovers like me would agree that we enjoyed the 2006 season a lot more. And no, we never wanted Schumacher to retire. But now that he has, the sport has had a breath of fresh air. For the first time in many years, there are 4 drivers that look like taking the drivers’ championship. Who cared if there was scope for 4 drivers coming 2nd in the championship? Now that Superman is gone, earthlings can compete.

Cricket has gone thru this twice. With the Windies in the 70s and 80s and the Aussies in the 2000s. We all knew who’d win the cricket world cup this year even before it began. Such a fantastic team deserves to win whatever competition they participate in. But would others want to watch supermen take on earthlings again in flying contests? But then, does this mean we wish for the champions to stop playing for the sake of the sport? Well, yes and no.

Like I said earlier, the answer lies somewhere in between. We need others to play as well as Superman. Be it a Rafa/ Roddick to counter Federer, the superman of tennis; we finally found somebody to take on the superman of F1, Schumacher, 5 years after his ruthless dominance, Alonso; we also need some teams to stop the supermen of cricket, Australia. We are lucky chaps. We have seen the best of almost every sport in our lives. But, for the good of the sport the world needs to see superman stopped.

Till that day comes, let us celebrate something unique. Let us celebrate those who have taken their sports to a different league. Let us celebrate these supermen who have given us so many moments of joy, pride, and awe. Lastly, for Federer, all the best superman. Conquer kryptonite at Roland Garros. How I wish that you win, and how I wish that you are beaten. You deserve to win, but then, if you do, at Wimbledon, we’d be cheering your opponent every time you miss your first serve and every time you hit an unforced error. And if your opponent wins a game, forget a set, we shall give him a standing ovation. Those are the only small things they’ll win. You are going to take the Championships anyway.

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