"It’s not just the athletic artistry that compels interest in tennis at the professional level. It’s also what this level requires — what it’s taken for the one-hundredth-ranked player in the world to get there, what it takes to stay, what it would take to rise even higher against other men who’ve paid the same price number one hundred has paid. Americans revere athletic excellence, competitive success, and it’s more than lip service we pay; we vote with our wallets. We’ll pay large sums to watch a truly great athlete; we’ll reward him with celebrity and adulation and will even go so far as to buy products and services he endorses. But it’s better for us not to know the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so very good at one particular thing. Oh, we’ll invoke lush clichés about the lonely heroism of Olympic athletes, the pain and analgesia of football, the early rising and hours of practice and restricted diets, the preflight celibacy, et cetera. But the actual facts of the sacrifices repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up with bovine hormones until they collapse or explode. We prefer not to consider closely the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews or to consider what impoverishments in one’s mental life would allow people actually to think the way great athletes seem to think. Note the way “up close and personal” profiles of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life — outside interests and activities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what’s obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It’s farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one area of excellence. An ascetic focus. A subsumption of almost all other features of human life to one chosen talent and pursuit. A consent to live in a world that, like a child’s world, is very small."
"For a time Tuesday afternoon, the most popular trending topic nationwide on Twitter was QBsBetterThanSanchez. Among those mentioned: Bubba Watson, the golfer; Burt Reynolds, who played a quarterback in “The Longest Yard;” and the boy featured in an N.F.L. Play 60 commercial who tells Cam Newton of Carolina that he “will make Panthers fans forget about you.”"