Saturday, March 24, 2012

The G.O.A.T. has been declared!

Long live the GOAT!!! May his career continue to thrive. May he win a couple more Slams to silence the qualms of the doubters. May his loins bring forth more fruit, with or without penises, so that his dynasty goes on into another generation. And may Anna Wintour, the fashion witch, please find someone else to haunt so that his current run of luck remains untainted, unblocked, unsullied.

Of course I never doubted for a second. And yes I am sure that there are Rafaelites out there currently choking with rage. But they really need to get over themselves. Just because Rafa has a winning record over my Fed on clay, and just because he beat him on grass in a match that should have been ended for lack of sunlight, and just because Rafa hired some hack journalist to write an obsessive book about said match because it will remain his greatest victory ever and he clearly knows it – none of these change the fact that the experts ranked Rafa 6th best in the world and declared Federer the Greatest Tennis Player of All Time. Wherever he is right now Uncle Toni must be choking with rage.

And did you catch the reluctance with which SamprASS made the admission? Talk about choking. I'm not sure if it was with just rage. His manner seemed to me to contain a side order of bitterness. And who can blame him, really? Because for years he was made out to be the G.O.A.T. An American was supposed to carry this honor, not some dude from a country that doesn't even know how to properly wage war.

Am I gloating? Possibly yes, and can you blame me? Ever since Rafa appeared on the scene people have been making like he was the one to dethrone my G.O.A.T. I insisted that as talented as he was – and he is, never doubt that – one of Rafa's weaknesses is that his game is predictable. And once a player's game becomes predictable, once you can anticipate his every move – then he becomes beatable. It was just a matter of time.

The great ones are the ones who can keep improving, changing things up, mixing and matching, surprising their opponents, making us the viewers gasp with surprise. The great ones don't just have a winning season. They are not flashes in the pan. They don't flare and then burn out. They endure.

Another reason why I believe that Rafa will never be declared the G.O.A.T. is because of the price he has had to pay for the physicality of his game. I will never forget the image of Rafa collapsing in that interview. It was terrifying to see him literally faint with fatigue. And then there are there are the images of him trying not to grimace in pain, frighteningly unable to stand in Australia after losing in five sets to Djokovic.

The price of Rafa's success has been inordinate. The abuse of his body has been excessive. Yes he will continue to win matches, but his career will never have the longevity of an Agassi. And Rafa has admitted that it irks him when people say this. But as the Mighty Sparrow would say, sixty million Frenchmen can't be wrong Rafa. Yes that seems random but the Calypso G.O.A.T. is reportedly at death's door and I mean to honor him as well.

If you don't know about The Mighty Sparrow you can thank me for introducing you to him. He was born in Grenada but claimed Trinidad as his home. And Trinidad claimed him right back. And he is the greatest calypsonian to ever sing this art form. He was witty, vulgar, irreverent, and talented for days. No matter what ever happens in the world of calypso he will forever be the greatest in this field, ever. Sure there have been challengers along the way, but there will always and forever be only one Mighty Sparrow. That's how greatness works.

But the problem with greatness is that it inspires jealousy. Instead of people celebrating your achievements, they become increasingly inspired to knock you down. And this dynamic is important because the great ones inspire others to be better than they thought they could be. There could have been no Rafa without Federer. There could have been no Djokovic without Federer. No Raonic, no Tomic, no Tsonga – all these players have been inspired by the man who dominated tennis for most of the last decade.

And what I admire most about Federer is that he dominated with such class. He has been the players' choice for many years to represent their needs to the ATP. He has been an unselfish leader of the sport. No he is perfect, I don't mean to give this impression. Indeed, the great ones are always flawed. They have Achilles heels that others can exploit. But that too is part of greatness. It takes courage to be the best, not just talent. It takes courage to rise above your weaknesses and strive to be the best ever. Congratulations Mr. Federer. This is an honor well-deserved and long overdue in its declaration.  


Doug Messenger said...

Terrific. Next to Federer, the others appear inelegant, prosaic, even crude in their persons, in their tennis styles. Nothing more need be said. Heed the Chica, everyone. She's honest, she's observant and she's right. Go Fed!!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree!!! Excellent!