It’s a big college football day in America, as every Saturday is. There are, however, other things going on in the world of sports. So as I watched East Carolina pound Virginia Tech and UConn try to hang around with Boise State, I decided I need to remind you of one you should pay attention to after all the games are over today.
Sports go on continuously, and they survive departures of great athletes every year. Players retire and we as fans think our team will never be the same, until the next big thing comes along, and I don’t mean Brock Lesnar.
The 2004 Red Sox won two more championships with different groups each time. The 2009 Yankees had the core four and an entirely new supporting cast from the great teams of the previous decades. But while sports will always go on, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop to appreciate the people who have made us fall in love with the games we watch.
As a Red Sox fan, I’m making sure I appreciate Derek Jeter’s final season. Sure many of his accomplishments caused pain for my Red Sox, but I can appreciate greatness and am always sad to see it go. I’m getting to the age where, while Brad constantly reminds me I’m not yet old, many of the players I grew up watching are wrapping up their careers or, in some cases, long retired. I had a Roger Clemens poster on my wall for most of my childhood, now he’s a 50-something ex-athlete. I grew up on Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, and now both, along with teammate Danny Ainge, run teams instead of playing for them.
While there will always be new moments, it’s important to savor the ones which matter to you. No matter what moment or team hooked you on sports, you will have it burned into your memory forever. Once you have your allegiances to certain sports or teams decided, however, you still shouldn’t let great moments, players or teams just fly by just because they aren’t your formative ones. For instance I was already a big baseball fan before Jeter, but he’s been too good and too important a fixture during my lifetime to ignore his swan song. The same was true of Mo Rivera, and will be for the Boston athletes I admired in high school and college who are now wrapping up their careers.
Cherishing greatness before it’s gone is why you should watch Floyd Mayweather fight tonight. The best pure boxer of the last 20 years, Mayweather turns a brutal bloodsport into artistry every time he goes into the ring, proving boxing is really a sweet science and much more than a punch in the face contest. He’s not as fast or elusive as he once was, but he’s still harder to hit than anyone and capable of beating anyone in the world strictly by making them unable to find him.
As the slight decline in his skills indicates, he’s getting old. He is only signed for a couple of more fights under his current contract and will likely be retiring in the near future. Mayweather has too much money and too many outside interests to be one of those sterotypical boxers who stays around long after he should have retired. There isn’t much time to watch the greatness, so we should take advantage of it while we can.
If you’re not a combat sport fan, I understand. This column isn’t to try and turn you onto the sport of boxing. And if Mayweather’s extensive criminal record makes you not want to spend money on his fight, that’s fine too. But if you appreciate greatness in sport and want to catch if before it’s gone, find a way to watch the best you’ll see at his craft work his magic tonight.
The next great boxer will come along soon enough, but it’s no reason to let what’s in front of us go. Time is too short in sports or in life.
Appreciate the now.