Brent E. Zepke
At the 100th anniversary of Wimbledon, watching Rafael Nadal play the 9 years younger, 5 inches taller Taylor Fritz, serve 15 mph faster, inspired a kaleidoscope of my emotions and thoughts.
Mr. Nadal, at age 34 when many players’ skills fade, was fighting through a chronic foot problem while also calling for a doctor for stomach problems. That caused me to dash off a text to Rex of “this appears to be mara’s swan song.” My typo of “mara” instead of “rafa” for Rafael led to our discussing the nature of swan songs.
A “swan song” is a metaphysical phrase for a final gesture, effort or performance given by swans just before their death after having been silent (or alternatively not so musical) during most of their lifetime.
Another phrase conveying the concept of the end of the ability to perform is the “last hurrah,” which is described in the poem of the same name:
This is my last hurrah, once I start
I ain’t going to stop ‘till I go too far
Last hurrah and it’s okay
Maybe tomorrow I won’t feel the pain.
While there are many poems entitled the “last hurrah,” this one is my favorite because it also has the humor of its being written about breaking a diet for a piece of cake to illustrate an important concept.
Indeed, the concept of a last hurrah is not only applicable to tennis, or even sports, as Edwin O’Connor’s book by the same name applies the concept to politics, as did the award-winning 1958 movie of the same name that was directed by John Ford and starred Spencer Tracy.
The plot of “The Last Hurrah” was that the fictional, aging at 72, Mayor Frank Skeffington (Mr. Tracy) was trying to use his power as the incumbent and recipient of his party’s political machine, to have his last hurrah being to win one final election. His loss to the novice McCluskey was meant to symbolize that even the party machines could not overcome a politician with age-related declining skills.
At Wimbledon, perhaps it was thoughts of “maybe tomorrow I won’t feel the pain” that kept Mr. Nadal going through the four-and-a-half-hour match while the typical ladies match at Wimbledon lasted an hour and a half and Novak Djokovic won the other gentlemen’s semi-final match in a little over two hours.
At Wimbledon, some players’ attempts to avoid it being their last hurrah were thwarted by the combination of age and the medical issues that frequently accompany it, including 35-year-old Andy Murray and 41-year-old Serena Williams. While tennis players’ primary medical issues are age-related loss of physical abilities, in politicians the physical issues associated with aging may include stiffness in movements and loss of balance on stairs or bicycles. They may also include failures in cognitive functions, such as ability to understand and/or remember or follow directions, which is why the Medicare tests seniors for these abilities.
For example, President Donald Trump passed the test. But neither the physician nor President Biden,will confirm that he passed the test although his speeches, such as the one on July 8 gave an indication when he read the directions someone wrote for him to follow but not read out loud with: “It is noteworthy that the percentage of women who are registered to vote and cast a ballot is consistently higher than the percentage of men who do so. End of quote,” Biden read, followed by his saying “repeat the line,” which he dutifully did.
When Mr. Nadal’s father saw him struggling with pain, he signaled him to quit. When first lady Jill Biden saw her husband embarrassed when her tweet “For nearly 50 years, women have had the right to make our own decisions about our bodies,” received the response of “Glad to see that you know what a woman is” by Ret. Lt. General Gary Volesky. Mrs. Biden caused the general to be suspended from his counseling the U.S. military and ordered the FBI to “investigate” him.
Why? To protect her husband from embarrassment at having nominated for the Supreme Court Judge Kentanji Jackson, who testified under oath that she could not define a “woman” since she was not a biologist. That was the general’s reference.
In tennis, Mr. Nadal, the night after he defeated Mr. Fritz, indicated that the medical tests confirmed that the issue the doctor was treating during his match, was a 5-millimeter tear in his stomach muscles that required him to withdraw with the message “I don’t want to go out there and not be competitive” so his beating Mr. Fritz was his last hurrah for this Wimbledon. Should President Biden hear that call during his first term, his replacement will be Vice President Kamala Harris, who is known, to be kind, for her “word salads” of repeatedly using the same word in a confusing way.
For example, when CBS News correspondent Robert Costa asked why the Democrats in both the White House and in Congress “failed’ to codify the federal abortions in the nearly 50 years since the precedent was established, Vice President Harris responded: “I think that, to be very honest with you, I do believe that we should have rightly believed, but certainly believe that certain issues are just settled.”
Apparently thinking she had hit on a point worth repeating, she continued, “Certain issues are just settled.”
“Clearly were not,” Mr. Costa replied, to which the nation’s second-in-command emphasized her “believes” with “No, that’s right. And that’s why I do believe that we are living, sadly, in real unsettled times.”
Wimbledon illustrated many messages that extend beyond tennis, such as: The vast majority of players never possessed the ability to qualify although a few of these are permitted to enter.
There are competitors who are no longer able to compete due to the effects of injuries that become more relevant with age, such as Andy Murray and Serena Williams, although there are exceptions, such as Novak Djokovic winning this year’s Wimbledon at age 35. Some pause to heal injuries, such as 41-year-old Roger Federer; and sadly some continue unaware that they will force others to sing their swan songs for them.
Is politics any different?
Brent E. Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author who lives in Santa Barbara. His website is OneheartTwoLivescom.wordpress.com. Formerly, he taught law and business at six universities and numerous professional conferences. He is the author of six books: “One Heart-Two Lives,” “Legal Guide to Human Resources,” “Business Statistics,” “Labor Law,” “Products and the Consumer” and “Law for Non-Lawyers.”