Giant Killing 8 – Old Dudes
In this episode Kuroda felt much more sympathetic to me (Sugie always seemed like a decent guy), not so much because they get on the right path and mesh better with the team, but more so because their predicament is so familiar in competitive sports: That of the once-great (or merely good) athlete whose age and eroding skills force him to change his role on the team. It’s adapt, or hit the road, and it’s not uncommon for athletes — particularly former superstars — to have difficulty accepting this.
Sports figures “age” quicker than regular people, in the sense that they have a relatively small window in which they can perform at a high level due to the natural aging of the body. The more strenuous the sport, the smaller that window of opportunity is. In baseball, the best athletes can compete at a solid level until their late 30s if their instincts are up to scratch (though there is a noticeable dip in talent). A common rule in the NBA is that once a player hits 1,000 games, the combined stress of those games on the body will undoubtedly manifest itself with a sudden drop in skill.
Tennis is infamous for having very young athletes who hit their prime at ridiculously young ages (it’s rare to see someone excel in the sport after they hit 30); when Roger Federer played his legendary match against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon a couple of years back (he was 26 going on 27 at the time), and lost, some commentators wondered whether Federer was leaving his prime (which he has repeatedly proved wrong in the time since then). The football (yeah, I’ll stick with the worldly word :p) fans here will know better than me, but football requires a particularly great athlete, and from what I’ve read, once a player passes his prime, there’s almost no looking back.
David Beckham was, what, 32 when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy a few years ago? And I’m pretty sure he was considered past his prime and unable to compete at a high level in the European leagues. Point is, an athlete’s time in the sun is often brutally short, and it is especially true in football. Once that natural athletic ability starts to erode, the things a player can do become more limited by the game. When that goal was scored to open the game a while back, Kuroda and Sugie reacted like they would have in their younger days, but they just did not have the skill anymore to shore up the defense like the wanted, and they just clashed with the way their younger peers (and Murakoshi lol) were approaching the game.
Even though he is an annoying jerk, I felt sad for Kuroda. It’s tough watching someone who is past his prime continue playing as if he is still a young man. They just cannot do the same things anymore, and it becomes embarrassing to watch for the fans and for the athlete. On the other side, though, it’s tough to know when is the right time to walk away. We despair when an athlete retires at the height of his powers; we want to watch greatness as long as possible. But we also lament when an athlete sticks around past his expiration date. It’s a horrible double standard. I respect a guy who knows the right time to walk away, but I know it’s a difficult choice. How many of us could suddenly abandon our jobs at such a young age?
At the same time, of course, there is the team to consider. I can sympathize with a person who doesn’t want to give up, but my sympathy runs much lower when it’s at the expense of the team. Once again: Adapt, or get out. In basketball, I think, it’s relatively easy for a player to adapt if he is willing to take on one or two defined roles, and simply because the playing field is much smaller. At the end of his career, Reggie Miller was just a 3-point gunner, but still a good one. He accepted that role. Jason Kidd runs the Mavericks offense and shoots open 3-pointers. That’s it. If he is able to accept fate when his skills go into decline, Kobe Bryant will probably morph solely into a facilitator, a physical defender and someone who hits a bunch of open/semi-contested jump shots. (Whether he will accept that is up in the air, though. :p)
Football fans would know better than me: How possible is it to adjust to eroding skills? Does it happen often?
I’m glad Sugie and Kuroda were able to make the necessary adjustments. We always hear that every role on a team is important, no matter how big or small it is, but many people understandably want to be the big dog. That just is not possible, though. A team needs players to compete to their abilities and strengths, and to have those strengths be in harmony with everyone else. I really liked the use of metaphor with the positions on the football field to demonstrate how out of sync Sugie and Kuroda were with everyone else. The ramen shop owner emphasizing switching gears is a bitch much for me, however, haha.
Ah, almost forgot: I’m up in the Aniblog Tourney today against Blogsuki. I’d tell everyone to visit both sites, but really, my site is quite a bit smaller than Jason’s, so I don’t think I need to tell anyone to visit him! Just have fun and find something in either blog (or both!) you like, is what I say.