Just another week in life; just another week in sport; but the week reminded us of the rhythm of life in sport. Athletes live under a sentence that their body imposes. The human body reaches the zenith of its physical strength, quickness and coordination in early twenties. Even by then some elements like quickness are already eroding. Each player lives that sentence, knowing their body will ultimately betray them, not on purpose, but by the simple entropy of being human.
Incessant and lingering injuries marred Griffey's career after he left Seattle. Some believe they arose from the pounding he took at the concrete floor in the mausoleum of the Kingdom. He never reached the sheer numerical stature projected by his apogee years simply by his body breaking down just a little too early. But the period of his ascendency were glorious for him and the sport.
One star leaves. Another enters.
I am not worried about the hype or his final long term trajectory. The point of the game is the circle of sports, like the circle of all our lives.
We are born, we stumble, grow and with luck, love, talent and effort we arrive at the blissful time when we really are "at the top of my game." All of us have that possible trajectory. All of us face failure and success and experience those rare awesome moments when it all comes together. For a great athlete like Griffey, this continued that for a decade. But the Faustian pact athletes make with their bodies caught up with him as it does with all athletes.
The athlete, like all of us, also faces the young guns. The world does not stand still. Young kids, old kids dream of being an athlete--I don't know anyone who dreams of being a college professor at the age of 10! Athletes face constant competition and instant obsolescence. Come to think of it many of us face that it this age that specializes in replacing physical skill or mental judgment with technology.
As their body betrays them slowly and incrementally, sometimes disastrously with injuries and sometimes they face a threshhold decline in their quickness or speed or endurance. One year, one month they can do it; a year later they can no longer hit a curve or catch up to fastballs or bounce off a tackle and run again. The decay sets in at the same time younger fanatically devoted and well trained young players push them. The youngsters admire and want to be like the players they now face. It is an honor to face a Griffey but even more of an honor to strike him out or surpass his home runs or hit the ball past him that he once would have caught.
The circle completes itself. A great player retires, quietly and without fanfare. A new player, a potential great player, erupts onto the scene. Just another week in sport, in life.