We all have our favorites to look back on in sports, whether it was Michael Jordan or Larry Bird; Joe Montana or Bart Starr; Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays; Billie Jean King or Serena Williams; Pelé or Maradona; Jack Niklaus or Arnold Palmer. Somehow, when I was a kid, I knew that Sandy Koufax was something else, the greatest pitcher ever, even while watching him in the flesh. An opponent having lost to Björn Berg at Wimbledon said, “I was playing championship tennis, but he was doing something else.”
And now we watch Tom Brady (I’m writing this Sunday morning) later today, who is quite clearly to me the greatest quarterback in history. The standard detractors on the sidelines (I face these people myself all the time) will claim he cheats, or is lucky, or he faces a weak schedule. But history doesn’t lie and he’s beaten four excellent teams in past Super Bowls (and could have beaten the Giants two more times if not for incredible plays by the Giants).
We’re watching a guy, win or lose tonight, who is careful about his diet and conditioning; who practices long and hard; who trusts his teammates but is also demanding of them to do their jobs; who studies the game with intensity; who takes risks during the game; and who is fearless on the field.
That’s not a bad example for any of us in any pursuit. I hope he wins tonight for the same reason I watched breathless as Koufax pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game: Because I feel like part of the moment, part of the greatness that will always have a limited shelf life, part of the unflagging pursuit of excellence. But if he and his team don’t win, he’ll come back.
You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out. But you have to suit up for them all.
When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt. — Henry J. Kaiser (courtesy of Moshe Engelbeg)
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