I was about to give up on sport. I was so disappointed for Sam Stosur; then Essendon lost narrowly to Sydney and dropped out of the top eight; then Australia lost to the US at soccer (soccer!) in a World Cup warm-up. Well, but why did I tie my happiness to a woman I've never met who hits balls back and forth for a living? I told myself it was because I felt she was an ordinary woman who had recovered from serious illness and who was now about to make it really big. That's a pretty nice narrative to identify with. And she's not a prima donna. And she doesn't dress in chiffon to play tennis. And she is, after all, an Australian. But really, it's so arbitrary.
But we got home at midnight after seeing Richard III (run, don't walk, by the way, to get tickets for the last week of Ewen Leslie's extraordinary performance) and I turned on the TV to watch the second set. It was hard, for all my patriotism, not to be moved by Schiavone's late-career-blossoming, and her passionate kissing of the clay of Roland Garros, but I was all the same very disappointed for Stosur; and that feeling stayed with me much of the day (not improved by Essendon's last-minute loss to Sydney).
But I've just now seen Stosur on TV, saying how thrilled she was with her winning performances in Paris, and that while she was disappointed, she was still going to enjoy her success. So I'm somewhat reconciled, now, and reminded of all those truisms about sport; that it teaches you how to lose, as well as how to win.
I think with sport, I'm particularly fascinated by what looks like the purity of a good athlete's focus and concentration: evident, often, only when they have stopped competing and let go. I find it much harder to have the same kind of on-off switch with my own work. But could wish for it. And I think that's why I like vicariously switching on to see that kind of concentration at work. And surely, Sam's set up well for Wimbledon? No one will take her for granted, at least.