There’s some talk afterward, as there always is these days, about whether Federer should retire. This drives me crazy, so give me a second. Watching Federer decline makes me sad. Watching him lose to Tommy Robredo, whom he’d beaten easily in all 10 of their previous matches, made me sad. And if I could build a bonfire out of every editorial and every blog post arguing that the ol’ champ should hang ‘em up before he tarnishes his “legacy,” I would build it, then I would burn the ashes, then I would blast the sticky ash-residue out into space, then I would fire warheads at the space capsule. Have you ever bothered to think about what “legacy,” in this sense, really means? Legacy is a marketing tool; it exists for the convenience of people who want to sell you something. It has nothing to do with the athlete, whose accomplishments aren’t going to change if he plays past his prime, literally aren’t going to change at all, because Skip Bayless doesn’t own a time machine. Legacy is a post-Jordan, made-up idea that glorifies “going out on top” as part of a corporate strategy, presuming that fans don’t have memories and can’t cope with the complexity of a human life. Legacy belongs in the same pile of bogus thought-propaganda as “controlling the narrative” and “personal brand.” I would fire warheads at the warheads, I’m not kidding.
So unless what you’re after in sports is to associate some abstract concept of winner-iness with a particular shoe line, meaning you need a sanctioned moment of narrative closure that licenses you to keep making that association, and keep buying those shoes, forever, just please, please come off it. What do you have to gain by railroading Federer into retirement? He’s comfortably one of the 10 best players in the world. Do you know how hard that is? What a great career that would be for almost anyone? If he finds playing meaningful and likes being out on tour, why on earth should he stop? Because somebody wants the luxury of having fewer memories of him? Look, I, too, think it’s rad that Borg walked away from the game when he was 25.3 Here’s a sports-grade argument for you: Federer isn’t Borg! If he doesn’t want to do the scorched-earth/mountaintop thing, let him go out softly. Say he wants to play qualifiers in his forties; that would also be great and fascinating and totally within his rights.
The U.S. Open and Roger Federer’s legacy – Grantland. Brian speaking welcome truth to a piece of near-universal idiocy.