How to be better than Carl Lewis?
The latest illustration of the truth that a great sportsperson need not necessarily be a great sport came in the form of the unravelling Carl Lewis - Usain Bolt saga. It actually showed that sometimes they can be inversely proportional to each other. The better the sportsperson, the worse a sport he is. Carl Lewis, the greatest Athlete of the 20th Century wants to continue to be the greatest of the 21st Century as well. And since he can't prove it on the track now, he chooses to talk his way through. Sadly Lewis's talk till now hasn't been as graceful as his sprinting. He has not been exactly talking
his the run walk.
Lewis has been hinting darkly at the so called loose Jamaican anti doping policy for a few years now. Now that can be compared by cricket fans to an Ajay Jadeja insinuating that some cricketer is involved in match fixing today. After Bolt's win at the 100 meters in London, Lewis commented that what mattered to him was longevity and a dominance that extends through a decade or so, indirectly hinting at his own superiority. Bolt too hasn't come out of this episode smelling of roses. An ultimate sprinter he may be but he doesn't exactly believe in the adage of 'letting one's actions do all the talking'. He has to supplement his walk with his talk.
But it's not only Lewis who is stingy in his praise of the champions of the current generation. Pele is another genius who comes to mind. For all his footballing skills Pele has always come across as the most mean spirited human being, still caught up in the past refusing to even acknowledge the current crop of talent. His comments about Messi, his continuos run-ins with Maradona and his general behaviour have sunk him in the same category of human(?) beings like a Bishen Bedi. Bishen Bedi's antics are a matter of a separate article so one will leave it at that.
Why does a great champion have to continue reminding himself and the world about his greatness by pulling down the current champion? Why does he still have to clutch at that title of the 'greatest ever' with all his might by trying to suggest that the new 'greatest ever' is not as good as him? Is it about his ego alone? Or does it come from the fact that the champion may have retired from the game but is unwilling to give up that title which he held during his era and maybe even later till today? Or is it just a normal human tendency that a contestant when asked about other competitors will normally not be fullsome in praise of them?
There have been a lot of ex-champions who have been gracious in hailing the next generations. Rod Laver, Michael Johnson are a couple who spring to mind for their humility. Johnson has been a tremendous admirer of Bolt for some time now. Laver has always been very supportive of Federer. Both these gents actually can still claim to be the greatest ever but they just don't get involved in those discussions.
It may just be that the breed of champions is made up of good and bad human beings just like us mortal commoners. We can't match their feats but we can at least try and work on being sporting. We can actually be better than a few champions in that respect. Food for thought?