FUZZED: Living Legends

A brief respite before Davis Cup and Indian Wells – let’s discuss some old warhorses, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova. Mac is still playing the senior tour; he’s made noises about quitting, just as Martina used to. Also Cher. These are people who have trouble staying away, because nothing else in their lives give them the same rush. It’s just that athletes have bodies that wear out before long, even if their minds and hearts might want to compete until death.
During one of her comebacks, Martina commented that she didn’t recover as quickly anymore, and now when people comment on how fit she is, they might be silently adding ‘for her age’. For a couple of years, she could still win at doubs, but her game could no longer stand up to the new generation power game. Then the doubles wins dropped off too. It was too frustrating.
Mac is going through the same thing. He still wants to play and beat the younger guys. The chip on his shoulder is permanent. I wonder if he ever asked his brother to consider him for Davis Cup doubles (almost as a joke, but hoping just the same)? In some ways, he and Martina are similar, although she’s never exactly been witty. What has saved Mac has been his ability to joke about himself, which Martina seems unable to do, even if she’s mellowed somewhat from her ever-critical and strident younger self. She has never been a media darling or a clever, humorous personality that might have made her attractive as a commentator.
Mac stays involved with the sport. As a commentator, he has the rare insight of a top player. He’s seen the game change from the days of the wooden racket to now, and he played through that transition. He’s articulate and clever; even at his most critical I never doubt his love for the sport. When he IS that critical, I think it has to do with him believing that players lucky enough to be on tour should give it their all, and be totally committed to the game, just as he was. Perfectionists are not easy people to be around, but I’m glad he IS around.

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