Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reflections On The Greatest Sporting Event Ever

Frequently in the sporting world, not to mention news in general, once a notable event has concluded and the appropriate articles written, we in our short attention-span-having splendor do what comes naturally. We move on to new issues.
By yesterday morning, ESPN and CNNSI had dropped the Nadal-Federer epic final from their respective front pages completely. The only mention of Nadal was that he had pulled out of this week's Stuttgart tourney. You had to search into the website to find the substantive summaries and editorials. Just like that, a once in a lifetime event begins to slip from our consciousness.
That, my friends, is something that I'm just not okay with; I believe this match does demand a bit more reflection, because we may never see its equal in our lifetimes. I don't; however, wish to rehash the match shot for shot (though I don't think it will ever be deleted from my DVR) or discuss player statistics.
The impact of this match was larger than any of that, and I'm not the only one who feels that way. On "Pardon The Interruption" yesterday, a show that notoriously relegates tennis to the back bench, the first 4 minutes of the program were spent discussing what transpired at the All England the day before. More than that, the discussion was not a loud bashing of Federer or elevation of Nadal. No, it was a discussion about just how huge this classic was in the sporting pantheon and whether it will bring about a tennis renaissance in America.
On ESPN Classic, the match was re-aired yesterday as an "Instant Classic". That is the billing usually reserved for Super Bowls, college sports or MLB playoff games. Again, there is a most satisfying tenor of recognition of what happened; that we need to see it again and again to believe it.
In the world of tennis writing, of course this match is still on everyone's tongues and keyboards. The good thing is we are starting to see some interesting reflection, photos, and video compilations as the size and structure of the battle is dissected. With months to go before the US Open, this will certainly continue to dominate the conversation of the tennis fan and cogniscenti alike.
The greatest and most unique recognition I've seen thus far came from the NY Times. Yesterday there were two stories about the match, coverage usually reserved for Super Bowls and World Series'. Clearly a good start, but today was the exclamation point. For the first time I can recall in the 5 years I've been getting the Times online, there was an editorial about sports. It wasn't the Giants winning the Super Bowl, or the travails of the Yankees, it was Rafa and Roger.
Certainly, this classic will be on all of the year-end "best of" lists, but I am certain that it will, over time, transcend those labels. This contest will become a magnum opus for us to reminisce about, re-watch, read and write about. This was history unfolding in front of us and the sporting public is clearly not ready to let it go.
Of course time will move on and ardor will cool, but when the 2008 Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer finds its way onto bookshelves and into all-time highlight reels, it will always be our privilege to remember when we were witnesses to sporting history.

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