We’ve all felt it before.
Call it what you want. The precipice of history. An epochal moment. A once-in-a-lifetime event.
In history, our ancestors felt it when Michelangelo was putting the finishing touches on the ‘Creation of Adam’on the Sistine Chapel. Or when the world first set its eyes on the Taj Mahal, the ultimate monument to love.
In sport, we’ve seen it when Barry Bonds was about to break Mark McGwire’s single-season home-run record. When Sachin Tendulkar was on the verge of overtaking Brian Lara’s test match runs record. When Michael Phelps swam towards and past Spitz’s Olympic gold medal haul.
Records and statistics are integral to sports and imperative to sports fans. Mathematical musings for us fans to argue, discuss and yes, often fight each other for proving that our idol, team and country is better than the other's.
It is what makes us look forward to sporting events with pertinent passion and conduct post-mortems with morbid meaninglessness. Will England ever capture that second soccer World Cup and finally emulate its 1966 heroics? Will the Chicago Cubs ever break the curse of the Billy goat and win that elusive World Series?
Often, the discussion cuts across sports in a perverse coming-together of sports fans from different realms. Is a grand slam home-run in baseball more momentous than a Hail Mary in American Football?
It is all subjective, to be sure. And for the most part fairly harmless.
But scratch the surface and you will see that an ominous side-effect lurks in this murky business.
At first It is barely perceptive. A fleeting realization that something sinister is afoot comes next. And before you know it, it has happened. The sport itself has been eaten up by the statistic it has spawned.
Why do we let this happen to the very sports we love? More disturbingly, why do we revel in it?
Some say it is to keep casual fans interested and grow the sport. After all, everyone loves witnessing history in the making, right? Others claim it lends a sense of direction to the otherwise meaningless competitive slugfest that is the modern sports landscape.
I think it goes deeper than that.
Breaking records and statistics are proof that the human spirit rises above the artificial constructs of sport with its rigorous rules and laborious laws. A feeling so pure that it is unadulterated with the mundane humdrum of 150-game seasons and so removed from the maudlin milieu of base emotions commonly associated with sports.
We will celebrate it when the great Tiger Woods inevitably finally breaks Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. We will be dancing in the bleachers when the blur of the phenomenon that is Usain Bolt streaks past the finish line in ungodly time.
Rest assured, we will be reaching for the skies if Roger Federer lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires this Sunday.
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