Sports stars continue to defy Mother Nature by trying to extend their competitive life span. Nickolaus Bauer asks if it's worth it.
There seems to be a trend in the sporting world to milk as much as you can out of your time in the spotlight, be it by delaying your retirement, sticking around past your sell-by date or by trying to re-enter the fray once you’ve already called time.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The big question—is it ever worth it?
A great case in point is spin bowler Shane Warne. Vilified by his enemies and fêted by his country for a career in the national side that spanned 15 years, Warne has returned to the game several times since calling it a day in 2007.
At first it seemed a good decision to get back into the limelight in the 2008 Indian Premier league after a brief sojourn on the sidelines. He captained the Rajashtan Royals to victory in the competition’s inaugural year. He followed that up with another decent showing in the next three seasons—but to me he was always living on borrowed time.
The greatest proof of Warne’s fading spotlight is his latest stint in the middle for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League.
The man—formerly known as the greatest spinner of all time—was clocked for 19 runs in two overs against the Sydney Thunder.
That was after facing a race against time to make match fitness after scorching his bowling fingers while cooking.
Perhaps Warne is a bad example, there have been instances of sports stars grasping at their glory years with some success.
A 40-year-old Dino Zoff led Italy to World Cup triumph in 1982 and Martina Navratilova reached the Wimbledon singles final at the tender age of 37.
But that was then and this is now.
I dare you to find any former sports star in the past decade who performed as well in the twilight of their career as they did in the beginning.
South Africans should know this argument all too well after we sent an experienced but ageing side to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand this year.
For all the experience of John Smit and Victor Matfield, an underdone Springbok outfit was bundled out of the tournament in the quarterfinals.
Their exit was capped with a panting Smit playing down their failure—saying the team did their best.
To be blunt: Their best was simply not good enough.
The same goes for a number of other former stars who have tried to reignite their former glory.
Michael Schumacher, David Beckham, George Foreman, Stefan Terblanche, Dexter Dunworth and Pat Cash are but a few who ought to have considered resting on the laurels of their prior achievements.
The real test for those re-entering the fray, or holding on, comes with their performance.
If they can manage to push their prowess to the hilt and continue to run with the young bucks, then so be it.
At the end of the day it’s a question of preference.
I would not like to end my career by being pushed out as my belly hangs over my trousers and I’m huffing and puffing with every movement.
Wouldn’t you prefer to head off into the sunset at the top of your game?