He Fights On

By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in Comments (3) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

I must be getting old, since I remember Andre Agassi back when he had wild hair, wild clothes, and more wild shots in his repertoire than a drunken gunslinger. I remember, of course, the rebel image, the sometimes-juvenile antics designed to play to the crowds and rattle various foes. I remember all of the professional pundits and the pundits-without-pay who gaped at Agassi's brilliant natural talent but wondered whether he would find the heart, the maturity and the discipline to win championships and to write his name in the Golden Book of Tennis.

Well, we have all grown up, haven't we? And we grew up with Andre Agassi and he with us. The wild hair is gone, replaced by a Spartan close-cropping that seeks nothing more than to make male-pattern baldness look good. No longer does Agassi play to the crowds. He is more mature now . . . he draws strength from them like the champion everyone hoped he would someday be, the champion he is now. No longer does he wear flashy clothes; his sartorial decisions tend towards the functional and traditional. The only thing that remains from the past is a boyish smile, gentlemanly behavior that always existed underneath his onetime brash exterior and an indomitable will to win. Whether that will always existed, or whether it is of more recent vintage matters not. No one doubts Andre Agassi's greatness any more.

Read on...

He is leaving tennis now and reminding us through his departure of all of the memories we have of him. Of the way we somehow fooled ourselves into thinking that he would always be scampering around the court, hitting impossible shots and winning dazzling victories. He is reminding us that he has grown old. And that we have grown old with him.

But "old" need not mean "tired." No, it most certainly need not.

To say that Andre Agassi's victory over Marcos Baghdatis was A Victory For The Ages is perhaps to employ a cliché. I don't like clichés; too often, they get in the way of original thinking. But just because a statement is a cliché, does not mean that its use is always inappropriate.

So I am going to go out on a limb and say that Andre Agassi's victory over Marcos Baghdatis was A Victory For The Ages. I don't know how much longer Agassi can go. Roddick is out there, and so is Nadal and so is Federer and so, perhaps, are others who might bring the Legend's improbable last run for glory to an end.

But so often, glory is found in the very act of seeking it. Whether Andre Agassi will be the U.S. Open Champion for 2006 is beyond my ken to predict. All I know is this: Over 20,000 New Yorkers remained standing after a stirring five set victory and cheered Andre Agassi with joyful abandon, all the while seeking to support him for the coming battles he must fight to win the Open. They will do so as often as he can step out onto the court to do what he was born to do. If memory serves, the great Jimmy Connors once addressed an Open crowd by telling them that "You may not like me, but I like you." With that simple comment, New York was wooed and won and it took Connors to its heart.

Andre Agassi likes us. He proves it by going out on the tennis court and gives everything he has to make great memories for those privileged enough to watch him. And because of that, we like him back.

And in the end, what could be more glorious than that?

I grew up with Agassi as the "wild child," who grew his hair long before the rest of the sports world really realized how "cool" that was. Chang was an underdog giant-killer, Sampras was yet to come, and Agassi was the one who brought a rock-star equivalence to men's tennis.

I hope, for his sake, for the sake of the sport, and for the sake of all of us who grew up in that generation, that he goes out on top, with a resounding win in this US Open. Barring that, he has already made his mark -- and whatever way he does go out, it will be with grace, dignity, the adoration of fans, and with his place in history long-since secured.

Re: He Fights On by Joe Cella

Well put, Pejman.

Agassi's tenacity is remarkable.

It reminds me of the tenacity of two other sports legends:

1. Kirk Gibson was playing with a bad hamstring and swollen knee for the Dodgers in game one of the '88 World Series when he cracked his famous game winning home run, after receiving physical therapy throughout the game. He went on to play seven more seasons in MLB.

2. Steve Yzerman playing with one good knee in the 2001-2002 NHL Season led the Red Wings to their third straight Stanley Cup. The following summer Yzerman had knee realignment surgery, a procedure typically reserved for the elderly. He went on to play three more seasons with the Wings.

Very nicely done by brendanm98

Sometimes I think that so many of us are drawn to sports (both to compete and to cheer) as a substitute for the adventure, combat, and exploration that was more readily available in the not-so-distant past. It's not the same thing, of course, and usually when heroic imagery is applied to sports the result is uncomfortably incongruous, even trite. Ever so rarely, there are moments in sports that really do capture glory and bring deserved honor to the competitors (Joe Cella mentions two). A champion's struggle to use his accumulated skill and ingenuity to battle both his younger foes and his aging body can become either drama, tragedy, or farce; Agassi is so far doing himself proud with his last tournament, and I very much hope to see him play Roddick. I don't think Tennyson's words are at all out of place here:

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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