“No more tennis once these two go”. A friend of mine recently posted this status on Facebook stating that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal formed the ‘Golden Era’ of Tennis and once they leave, the sport would never be the same (in this case, for the worse). Euro 2016 has just reached the second stage of the knockout phases and people already complain that it lacks the excitement or the quality of the previous editions due to the retirement of several legends of the ‘Golden Generation’. Could they be right? The funny thing is, we hear this same line repeated every time the old guard phase out to make way for the newer generation. It was said when Pele and Maradona retired, it was said when Zidane and Ronaldo said their goodbyes and will be said when Messi and Cristiano do the same. So which period truly deserves to be called the Golden Age?
People might use stats and numbers to differentiate the generations. But in my opinion, that is an unfair method. The conditions vary significantly in each period and a direct comparison will not yield a right result. The how do we settle this debate? It was here that I realised something. What exactly do you mean by the ‘Golden Age’? Is it a period where the sport flourished? A period where individuals did the unthinkable to lead their team to glory? A period which was defined by the rivalry of two of the greatest players then? The answer is simple. Each period is a Golden Age by its own right. In the mid 1900s, the golden era was that of the Pele, Laver, Bradman and Ali. Then it was that of Kapil Dev, Navratilova, Maradona and Niki Lauda. Then came Sachin, Sampras, Zidane and Dravid. For me, it is the period that had Messi, Ronaldo, Dhoni, Federer, Nadal, Serena, and Bryant at their peaks. Each period produced legends who revolutionised the game forever. This brings us to the next question – Why do we always complain about lack of quality in the game as we grow older?
Take Euro 2016 for example – Is it actually lacking excitement? Probably. Is it lacking quality? Absolutely not. Teams like Wales, Hungary and Iceland qualifying, let alone topping their groups was unheard of four years back. Today, it is a reality. Weaker teams no longer come to tournaments just for pride, but they come with the attitude to win. This has made the game less predictable and more fun. Then why do we still complain?
You see, humans just age, but sports evolve. Complaining that Neymar and Pogba are too flashy is like criticising the youth for their YouTube and Instagram obsession. That’s how the culture is at present and in doing so, we fail to appreciate what they have achieved at their very young age. Saying that cricket is much easier after the retirement of the great Australian team is seriously understating the talents and exploits of Kohli and ABD. Even though Djokovic is the first player in a very long time to carry all four grand slam titles at the same time, majority of the tennis fans will claim that he still lacks the class of ‘Fed-Al’. Seems pretty unfair, right?
In the movie ‘Midnight in Paris’, Owen Wilson goes back in time to the 1920s, an era he idolizes and believes is the golden era of literature. There he discovers that the people then considered the 1890s as the golden period. It is here that he realises that different people yearn for different ‘golden ages’ And I believe that we are doing the same thing. We always look to the greats of our time for inspiration and in this process, we place them as an Immortal in our minds. We grow so attached to our heroes that we cannot bring ourselves to accept that someone in the future might actually eclipse them and beat their records. Call it being selfish. Call it being a fan.
Sports can never be the same for forever. It will keep evolving as technology and society progress. Instead of complaining that the game is not as great as it was in the past, we must learn to appreciate the dedication and talents of every sportsman who tries to make a difference. Because for every person who criticises an upcoming star, a child will grow up idolizing him/her and this cycle will continue.
Records are made to be broken. The fact that it has happened in a different period does not make it any less worthy. Despite all the glories of the past, it’s always better to live in the present. So think less, grab some popcorn and enjoy the present ‘Golden Age’ at its finest, yet.
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