In sports and entertainment in general, as a celebrity in particular, – public figure, sport star, actors, etc. – one must be very conscious of his shelf life, that is when it is time to retire the brand for other new, fresher brands to emerge. To keep the old brands on the shelf is a sure way to go out of business. In sports – as well as entertainment albeit much less so in the entertainment industry – athletes should not delude themselves into thinking their experience will prevail.
Experience matters; experience is important but in sports, experience is much less valuable than youth, energy, reflex and speed, all of which tend to fade away with age. A fact Jerry Seinfeld recognized very early on, although in show business, there is a much longer shelf life for celebrities. Regardless, the move to end the show at a time everyone wanted more of it was a very good move. He ended that page of his celebrity life in a high note, as George Costanza (Jason Alexander) would say.
Serena Williams, on the other hand, seems to have not come to term with this fact; she’s still trying to prove she is the best; she’s still fighting to stay the best. The time that was the case is gone; there is no amount of training which can bring back the youth she needs to match her younger opponents, the speed which is necessary to outrun her opponents and the quick reflex she must have to react to fast opponents who are determined to dethrone her. Serena is getting older, slower no matter how good and experienced she is. Her speed, her reflex have all diminished, in full display at a match she was not only challenged but also beat by someone – Naomi Osaka – who grew up wanting to be as good as her.
There is no reason for Serena Williams – or anyone in sports for that matter – to fight the inevitable. It would have been a gracious exit to have retired from playing tennis some 3+ years ago; it would have been better. We can all appreciate her love for tennis; she grew up in an environment in which both parents were coaches; it was almost inevitable she and/or a few of her siblings would fall in love for the sport. Having your parents as coaches made mastering the sport easiest. As such, Serena Williams did not only prove to the world she was the best but she did also make her parents proud. But as in everything in life, the time has come for her to hang up the hat. The love for the game doesn’t disappear. For Serena, it will never; but she should recognize that her speed now, her flexibility, her reflex are all measured in ways that can no longer guarantee the performance she put up in the last decade. There is no shame to admitting this very fact of life. That’s what makes one human.
It is worse to stick around and suffer one humiliating defeat after another than to simply hang up the hat and walk away albeit painfully from a sport she’s been playing since a very young age. Today, conversations about Serena Williams are no longer how fantastic her performance is but rather how much she is failing. The strength of (her) ego cannot make up for her slower reflex and the diminishing speed. It is time Serena Williams muster as much strength as she has left to say goodbye, a move which will open a whole new chapter in her life.
For us here at the Fourth Branch, we’re saying Goodbye to a life well lived of Serena Williams. See you in your next life!
You can watch the full broadcast aired on Saturday, September 7 2019, hours before Serena faced her opponent Bianca Andreescu in a bid to win the 24th Grand Slam title; she did not. Serena lost 6/3, 7/5 to Bianca who turned 19 last June.
Serena should seriously consider the most logical option, to bow out.Follow @mducheiney
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