There is something about old things that trigger a flurry of emotions. You pick up an old box, an old picture, an old piece of shirt and memories just start tumbling out. For me, it was neither an old box nor a closet cleaning spree but an interview in the yesterday’s newspaper of a guy I worshipped in my early teens, the perfect time for first crushes, stolen glances and coy smiles.
I was barely 12 when I found posters of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf with John McEnroe pasted on my side of the closet by my ever domineering brother. He had already decided that Andre and Steffi belonged together and they did eventually (after a decade and a half). Those who are not clued in to who they are, they are the tennis superstars and Gods on clay, grass and hard court. We had a fight over it back then and I was about to tear one of the posters when he ransomed me with a big bowl of ice-cream and I gave it up. Besides, I had grown fond of the long locks and the pierced ear of Andre to let go of him. Brother was happy that he won and I was happy that an eye candy was right on my closet.
That’s exactly the same poster I had on my closet…
They were permanent fixtures in the bedroom we shared. Then came the man with blonde hairs, blond eye lashes, chocolaty looks and a powerhouse on grass court. Boris Becker, his boyish charm swept me off my feet and when dad and brother caught on to his matches on TV, I gelled with them to watch him sway his arms stylishly and his legs fiercely. His serves were astonishingly powerful; no wonder people called him ‘Der Bomber’. I remember watching one match of him with Andre Agassi ball to ball thinking that which one of my heart throbs will win the title. Agassi won that day and I still remember him getting down on his knees, fists up in the air, celebrating that moment of winning from his bitter rival. You could feel the elation just being wired out of the TV and rising hairs at the back of your neck. And the sad sullen face of Becker just refused to leave my dreams for many days thereafter. Few years later when brother went off to hostel and gave me the freedom to rip every bit of his memory off, he was surprised to find the posters intact on his next visit. I had fallen, not only to their charm but their passion too.
I don’t remember when I stopped following the game. It must have been the time when one by one all my favorite icons retired from the sport and it started looking dreary and dry despite fresh faces. Now, I just pick up bits and pieces on news. Federer and Nadal’s rivalry remind me of the Becker-Agassi times but not enough to watch the entire match point by point.
But when yesterday I read a long interview of Boris Becker for TOI, one of my long lists of crushes, it caught me unawares and I was again sapped into the adrenaline rush of match points. Just two lines in the interview summed up the passion he has played with. He said, “There is a different smell when you have been part of the locker room.” It takes years to have that kind of passion for the game. He became a Wimbledon champ at the age of 17 and still had the perspective to say in one of the games, “It was not a war and nobody died there.”
Can one have such a leveled head, be at the top for years and still give more than 100% to that one and only thing in life that defines you? But then not everyone can be a legend that he is.
Memories, they suddenly take you back to the wonderland you once lived in and then you are brought back to earth with pressing demand of a 5 year old to sit with him for finger painting. Such is life.