I could not leave. My kids were promised the beach all morning and sat waiting patiently in their bathing suits, poised to hop in the car and hit the sand. I could not. What was happening live in England some 5,000 miles away was too riveting. Federer-Nadal in the final of Wimbledon, the undisputed top two tennis players alive slugging it out in a performance that was truly spellbinding.
As I watched this beautiful yet powerful display of tennis, I realized that, despite the protests of some old-timers, the golden age of sports is here and now. Yes, I grew up with Borg-McEnroe and Borg-Connors and Connors-Lendl and was a fan all of them (as a tennis player I emulated parts of all of their games). But unlike those who hold fast to their generational stars and memories, I am convinced that the guys I watched on Sunday are just better. That match left me with the overwhelming feeling that the glory days of tennis -- both with the men and women (see Williams, Venus and Serena) -- are upon us. It is here and now with Rafa and Roger, not a rose-colored memory of players we loved twenty years ago.
Rafael Nadal is a testament to fitness, power and grinding through points like someone breaking through asphalt with a sledgehammer. In contrast, Roger Federer is a wondrous player, elegantly stroking classic shots from all angles. This mesmerizing match did not allow viewers to possibly turn away. The golden age of men's tennis is right now.
The golden age of sports is not limited to tennis. Think of what we have had in this 2008 calendar year, of which we are only halfway through. In football, there were two wondrous games involving the New York Giants. They first defeated the Packers in Green Bay in late January (as vice president of the Packers at that time, it was the coldest I had been, or ever plan to ever be) in a frozen classic, followed by one of the great Super Bowl games and upsets in history, beating the Patriots in early February.
In college basketball, we witnessed an astounding overtime championship by Kansas over Memphis, full of game-tying and game-deciding shots. NBA basketball gave us the matchup everyone wanted, a classic between the Celtics and Lakers, culminating playoffs full of once-in-a-generation talents such as Kobe, Lebron, Chris Paul and others.
In golf, the recently-completed U.S. Open not only featured an epic performance by the most compelling athlete of our time, a now-injured Tiger Woods, but also the injection of the common man element into the equation, with folksy, everyman 45-year old Rocco Mediate blazing through the performance of a lifetime.
And then there was that final at Wimbledon, an instant classic that has even the most casual tennis fans talking tennis.
So sit back and enjoy the show. We have never been at a time in athletics where the performances are becoming as frequently compelling as they are. In the highlight-driven, SportsCenter moment society we live in, there is a natural desensitization to the spectacular, but we must resist that. Performances like Sunday's Wimbledon final are what makes sports the wonder that it is and what makes this time in our lives the golden age of sports. It is here right under our noses. While sentimentalists will hearken to the heroes of their childhood or other generational biases, the fact is that, as Carly Simon sings in Anticipation, "These are the good old days."
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