In sports, and also in the competitive world we live in today, winning is all that matters. Its the final result on the score sheet that counts, not how one got there. Just to be more pessimistic, second place is the first among the list of losers.
Yet, sports often brings the real individual out of a person. Though success stories and ‘who-said-what’ at sporting encounters is of academic interest to most people, some tales do live on and are passed on from one generation to the other, only to become legends and folklore. Case in the point: the origins of ‘The Ashes’ cricket series between England and Australia.
Sportsmen are seen as warriors, or rather, more like gladiators fighting it out against each other for the coveted prize, and the honour that goes with it. But there’s a human side to things which rarely comes into focus. Its based on respect for each other, which ironically is a by-product of the same competitive spirit. A stong friendship can exist even between the most bitter rivals on the field, and we have many instances in the history of sports, or even in the history of the wars the world has fought to date.
On Sunday, inside the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, we all were privileged to see that piece of history repeating itself. It was the moment when an emotional and hurt Roger Federer was consoled by the very person who had humbled him just a few minutes ago in a marathon final match at the Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam Championship. Few would argue that both have achieved a lot of success in their careers, earned a whole lot of honour and respect from the fraternity and will go on to even greater heights in the future. This is surely not the last time we have seen them slug it out on court, but its incidences like these which will be remembered long after they have bowed out from the centerstage.
I quote Nadal’s own words here: “Sorry for today, Roger. I know how you are feeling right now. But remember that you are one of the greatest champions from history and you will go on to improve the 14 (major Grand Slam titles).”
That is humility for you, a quality that Tennis as a sport has taught Nadal. At a stage where you constantly have to be on the top of your game and face-off with the best everytime, this quality is a great asset to have. It keeps your feet grounded at all times, the main ingredient of the recipe called ‘Champion’.
I mentioned ‘The Ashes’ a while ago, and I would like to round off the article with a similar incident which occurred after the historic 2005 Ashes test at Edgbaston. It was a series where the English reclaimed the coveted Ashes urn by defeating the might of the Australians. But it will also be remembered for the picture of Andrew Flintoff crouching beside a heartbroken Brett Lee on the pitch at the end of the match, and consoling him, amidst the crazy celebrations from the English players and supporters.
The following quote from R.G. Briscow made during the World War II just sums it up:
“If only Hitler and Mussolini could have a game of bowls once a week at Geneva, I feel Europe would not be as troubled as it is.”