Barry Bonds, Floyd Landis, and now Justin Gatlin. When does fact end and when does fiction begin? I am sure even without performance enhancing substances, they would have been great athletes and would have won it all. Gatlin the 100 meters at Athens, Bonds the Babe Ruth record, and Landis, the Tour De France. But they chose to throw it away. Because however much you might want to cut it; call them sporting legends, a country’s icon, a savior to the masses, the fact is that these athletes are mortals, given to self doubt, insecurity, and bravado.
Sports has become a travesty. Look at how many times both Asafa Powell and Justin Gatlin were to meet face to face to decide the title of the fastest human being but backed away citing some half baked excuse. No one wants to give up the right to the fastest human being, even though by taking these substances, they have lost even before the starting gun goes off. When the world settles down in its euphoria at their win and discovers that there was an element of fraud in it, the myth of the sporting hero, mind over matter, conquering a wilful and imperfect physical plant that is our body, into a cohesive unit of perfection, crumbles. It is not enough that Barry Bonds hits the ball for a home run into the stands, he has to hit it out of Candlestick Park, into the bay, where boats await his home runs and people dive in to retrieve the balls. We all have to be a part of that legend and we want more.
Nobody wants to compete against each other, it is the sports management teams of each athlete that decides that. You can engage in a war of words, like Gatlin and Powell, as to the better athlete, but till the agents in each camp decide when they actually meet up, it remains bluster. Because till then the weather in London and Crystal Palace is too humid, too dry, and too windy. You see, it is not winning that is everything, it is not losing. Is it just me or does one feel that athletes actually met up more times when there were far less competitions, less sponsorships, and it was more difficult to travel? In my estimation Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell should have met up at least a half dozen times and we should have seen the start of a gripping rivalry that would have done wonders for athletics. But such is the state of affairs, that you lose once, your self worth goes down, self doubt creeps in; the corporate sponsors and the sports management company start whispering campaigns, and before long, you are rubbing flaxseed oil on your knees. Then when you get caught these very entities are out your front door. Such is the price paid for losing. Nobody believes in the law of averages anymore.
We all know without Gatorade you will never be able to finish the Tour de France but is that all you want to do? The metrics of sports has moved so much that it is no longer to break racial prejudices, to go below the 4 minute mark in the mile, or to promote calcium in your bones. That is all left to movies like Chariots of Fire. Paul Simon’s verse,” And where have you gone, Joe Di Maggio, A nation turns its lonely eyes at you” seems to be all the more relevant now.
Suddenly the art of diving in soccer does not seem all that bad now. Eh? And Zidane’s loss of composure should be measured in the context of this universal loss of composure seen in sports nowadays.