Take Your Ball And Go Home? How Dare You!

Play associated audio

Now that Tim Tebow is out of hearts and minds, and we can actually turn our attention to other things, let us go clear to the other side of the world. There, a short while ago, while preparing for the Australian Open, Serena Williams said: "I don't love tennis today, but ... I've actually never liked sports."

While her confession might have surprised some, I suspect that even more were irritated, actually angered, that an athlete — a great champion! — could utter such blasphemy.

We sometimes also hear the sentiment that we'd like to see an athlete quit near the peak of his career, but when Tiki Barber, the running back, did just that a few years ago, he was utterly astonished at the reaction of so many fans. They all but berated him — how dare you leave the game!

It's not just that so many of us love sports so and can't comprehend someone who's in the game not caring for it all that much. Rather, I think, there's a lot of envy involved.

So many people — girls as well as boys now — grow up playing sports and loving them and ultimately failing at them; and so when we see someone who achieved what we couldn't, we're all the more put out if they can blithely turn their back on it.

Why, fans have even been shocked at the recent revelations that several ice hockey goons really didn't enjoy being goons.

Now, when somebody from another glamorous profession — an actor, say, or a model — walks away from success, there isn't the same intensity of either jealousy or bafflement because not so many of us tried to act or model when we were growing up. Ahh, but how many of us kids played sports and dreamed of being a star?

The irony is, in my experience, that for those athletes who do make it to the top, a passion for the game does not necessarily best light that path to glory.

In fact, at the age of 30, Serena is old for a tennis player, and she may still be a contender only because she has not loved tennis so much.

Through the years, it's aggravated a lot of people in her sport when she's appeared cavalier about the very thing that has brought her fame and fortune, but simply because she has been able to distance herself and find other outlets may explain why she's not yet burned out, physically or emotionally.

On the other hand, it's also my experience that a lot of the more restrained athletes who do quit before they are done only find out afterward how much the game really meant to them.

When Tiki Barber wanted desperately to come back after five seasons, nobody wanted him. Youth may be wasted on the young, but in sports, the most telling truth is that youth must not be wasted.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

For A Female Banker At The Top Of Her Game, What Does It Take To Stay There?

In the film Equity, investment banker Naomi Bishop navigates the male-dominated world of Wall Street. Screenwriter Amy Fox discusses the film and her research, which included many interviews with women who worked on Wall Street.
NPR

Salvage Supperclub: A High-End Dinner In A Dumpster To Fight Food Waste

The ingredients — think wilted basil, bruised plums, garbanzo bean water — sound less than appetizing. Whipped together, they're a tasty meal that show how home cooks can use often-tossed foods.
NPR

LISTEN: At The DNC, We Asked Women Why They Were Voting For Clinton

We asked women — as young as 4 and as old as 77 — how much the weight of history factored into their decision.
NPR

New Reports Of Hackers In Democratic Party Computer Systems

The Clinton campaign says its systems were not hit but that a program it uses was in the party's compromised system. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was also hacked.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.