Tag Archives: Brett Favre

The Curious Case of The Rejuvenated Athlete

Michael Owen was once the next great soccer player. Indeed, he turned out to be a pretty great soccer player. But no one wants to talk about that:

In meta-sport…You decide on the story long before there is anything so unpredictable to worry about as the match. You pick out what’s “interesting”. You decide on the personal narratives that matter. This is the situation that Michael Owen finds himself in. After years “in the wilderness”—which means being consistently pretty damned good, but not quite as brilliant as we’d hoped—Owen is now a story again. He is interesting again. Hell, he’s on a journey.

This seems unequivocally true for all stories about athletes (See: Favre, Brett). A similar thing could happen with Freddy Adu. He was pronounced to be the next Pele, even better than Owen. He is now only 20 (probably), and has much playing to do. Yet, already, The Big Lead asks:

What happened?

One wonders why only the most gossip-curious wonder, “What happened to Haley Joel Osment?”, Yet we will certainly seem surprised, pleasantly, when he returns for whatever career he finds in his mid-30s. Actors and artists are not viewed as having potential – in their early forms, they are what they are, geniuses at their specific craft, for that specific task. Athletes are works-in-progress: gifted, but not yet skilled; imbedded with potential, but also primed for a fall. This makes them choice material for a dramatic arc.

So, adapting Ed Smith’s exhortation to Michael Owen, and to the chargin of journalists everywhere, “rejuvenated” athletes should probably just answer questions like this (that is to say, honestly):

“That’s a strange question. Sport is unpredictable. I was on the wrong end of a close call at _________—it could have gone either way. Now _______ have taken a punt on me. That’s life. I may have lost a bit of pace but I’m basically the same player. Circumstances changed, but I didn’t. Let’s see what happens next, shall we?”

Lions in Winter

A confluence of various things caused me to read more than one – three, to be precise – fantastic profiles of over the hill baseball players this week. I offer them to you for your long weekend, so take advantage of the office printer.

For those Meanderers who don’t know an infield fly from a suicide squeeze – or, better yet, don’t care to know – fret not. These articles aren’t really about baseball. Here’s the evidence.

Gay Talese on Joe DiMaggio:

During their honeymoon in Tokyo an American general had introduced himself and asked if, as a patriotic gesture, [Marilyn Monroe] would visit the troops in Korea. She looked at Joe. “It’s your honeymoon,” he said, shrugging, “go ahead if you want to.”

She appeared on 10 occasions before 100,000 servicemen, and when she returned, she said, “It was so wonderful, Joe. You never heard such cheering.”

“Yes, I have,” he said.

John Updike on Ted Williams:

The affair between Boston and Ted Williams has been no mere summer romance; it has been a marriage, composed of spats, mutual disappointments, and, toward the end, a mellowing hoard of shared memories. It falls into three stages, which may be termed Youth, Maturity, and Age; or Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis; or Jason, Achilles, and Nestor.

Tom Verducci on Sandy Koufax:

DiMaggio, baseball’s other legendary protector of privacy, was practically Rodmanesque compared with Koufax. DiMaggio was regal, having acquired even the stiff-handed wave of royalty. We watched the graying of DiMaggio as he played TV pitchman and public icon. Koufax is a living James Dean, the aura of his youth frozen in time; he has grayed without our even knowing it. He is a sphinx, except that he doesn’t want anyone to try to solve his riddle.

I prefer them in the order listed above, but they all touch on a remarkably similar theme: the lion in the winter, Shakespeare post-Macbeth, Hanson post-Mmmbop, Favre post-retirement(s). What does one do, indeed, when one has conquered this planet in every worldly sense and must confront the rest of one’s life? I told you it wasn’t about baseball.

Oh, a decent set of writers helps too.