Everyone has a professional shelf-life – even sportspersons. The irony however is, the awareness about the concept doesn’t translate to awareness about when the shelf-life is going to expire. For the best of them all and the worst of them all, it’s a common scenario, the time ticking away, just waiting to implode upon their faces.
In the past few months, a lot of professional players have retired and left their respective sport for good. While most lucky ones have had the fortune to leave it in absolutely good graces, some have invoked criticism for their lives and times in the professional circuit. But how much of these retirements have an impact on the present crop of players, however, remains the million dollar question.
As each day in each sport marks a new beginning with newer achievers reaching newer milestones, oldness doesn’t really have a presence in sports. People really want the past to remain in the past, while today isn’t a long forgotten tomorrow. But does that mean that the older generation of players don’t influence the more contemporary pedigree? Or that inference between the past and the present breed isn’t drawn, right from playing style to the players’ overall persona?
Both in individual sports and team events, there seems to be so much at stake – so many monkeys to throw off backs – that both players and their fans seem to lose perspective along the way. Wins don’t remain just wins; they become yet another statistical comparison between the past and the present. And as for losses, there’s no way to describe that sense of demeaning anguish that spreads all over.
And this is where the experts – both genuine and so-called – start to proffer their opinions and condolences. From a simple ‘This-was-expected’ to ‘I-knew-this sword-was-hanging’, there’s so much going round, that no one really knows where and when did the actual argument originated. And if at all the opinion-offering person has been of the same-bent of mind throughout.
Thus, let’s us all face it. Opinions do change and when they do; it doesn’t take much for supporters and backers to turn and change sides, just as quickly. Take the case of a particular cyclist. For years on, he kept protesting and arguing his case of innocence. Then one day, he realises, there’s no point in arguing further and stops fighting. Let people believe what they want to – his innocence or his guilt. What’s the immediate conclusion? He’s guilty and that’s why he’s stopped fighting. His teammates turn critics while his fans pen playing up their betrayal. But the buck does stop here – is the man ‘not guilty’ or is the man really ‘innocent?’ No one knows and the person concerned isn’t really bothered about anyone finding out.
So how does this correlate to the aspect of sportsmen’s shelf-life? A sportsman is always judged by his professionalism and his integrity. In the case of the cyclist, while for him others’ opinion may not matter, the sport already finds itself tainted with repeated onslaughts of deception. The present breed of players taking part in it may or may not be cheating, but who’s to believe? The lost faith can never be compromised. Of course there again, this is just about one player – a hero according to many who seems to be caught in the middle. What about those who aren’t the best and who want to be, and who see no choice but to cheat? Their shelf-life and permanency is as fickle as raindrops in the Atacama, ending even before it can make an impact.
Being saddled with a shelf-life thus doesn’t mean limited time. To those who are smart and have the ability to take their talent further, it means packing the best shortest time and turning it to the fullest possible. But for those looking only for a means to a glorified end, the means always don’t justify the end, just as their shelf-life becomes potentially unpromising.