Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Phil Mickelson Don’t Want to Stop
Tiger Woods shared a sympathetic tribute to tennis great Serena Williams as they share some of the ills we experience approaching middle age and beyond. He swept aside all other considerations for the moment, and chalked it up to the biggest reality in life. The body changes, and we are not what we used to be, even if the change is barely noticeable. There is no getting around it with these two. In their separate disciplines, they are not merely fine athletes – they are absolutely once-in-a-generation magnificent athletes. Whichever sport I watch, I wonder at times if I’m looking at someone from my own species, and often remark silently that at the top of my physical prowess, I couldn’t begin to do anything in either sport anywhere near this level. I also know that I wouldn’t if I got a million years to work on it.
Woods is correct, age is our nemesis, but some are able to make a treaty with the aches and pains by reminding themselves that they are different than they once were, but not broken down old has-beens. All right, I can’t hit it as hard as I did forty years ago. I have to drop a little physicality, go a little slower – all that stuff. Lyricizing one’s life can make it go much more smoothly by staying within one’s self. However, we must consider what these athletes are trying to do.
Swing easier, Tiger, and lyricize your game can work great for your foursome on the weekend. Trade distance for a little more accuracy? Sure, it’s the smart way to balance out a body that doesn’t like the feel of bashing a ball with everything it has. Tiger Woods can’t say that. He’d never win again. Much of his competition is younger, and they are not mindless “bashers.” They hit the ball absurd distances, and are accurate for the most part. Every week, the winner is someone who can put those two qualities together. Woods was once nearly invincible on the average day. A step slower, and now he’s just really good. By the way, tell Serena Williams to move more slowly out on the court and to take some of the steam off the ball. Then watch the tragedy that would surely ensue. Her 20-year old competitors run like the wind, and burn it in there. She is still difficult to beat on any day, but less so than before. Williams and Woods do indeed share a problem of what adjustments must be made. They are also mature adults now, with children. Golf and tennis is still passionate and competitive, but it shares another priority with family.
Phil Mickelson has hung in there like a trooper, playing a game that younger men play, as well or better than they do. Phil, however, is now 50, and slowly being led to the Champions Tour. He’ll still have a golden day once in a while, but four in a row is more difficult than in the past. In this week’s U.S. Open, he sits next to last, and that’s not a Phil Mickelson thing to do. In his forthrightness, he has declared that he’s “sick of this.”
There are many compromises we can make with age to continue enjoying our lives, but at the top, where the air is rare and the shots unbelievable, young bodies eventually take over older ones. I’m sad to see the great ones become “Emeritus athletes,” but it is the way of things. We who watch should vicariously enjoy all the glory we can while they are still capable of standing in the winner’s circle.