Wednesday, September 14, 2005

JSB: Champions

The other night I watched one of the greatest tennis matches I've ever seen. At the U.S. Open in New York, 35-year-old legend Andre Agassi bounced from way back to defeat a 25 year old sensation, James Blake. I almost turned it off after the first 2 sets, which Agassi lost 6-3, 6-3. It looked to be a blowout. But then...from somewhere deep down, Agassi pulls out the third set. Still, he had never won at the Open after losing the first two sets. Then again, after having his back against the wall, he wins set number four, and we go to the final set.

Blake then comes back, and pulls ahead, serving to win the set -- a big advantage. But Agassi AGAIN finds a way to break serve. He makes incredible shots. Blake does too. It's as even as can be, so at 6-6 they go to the tie-breaker.

Agassi loses the first three points. Blake only needs three more to win. Agassi once more fights back. And, amazingly, wins the tie-break 7-5. He's moving on to the semi-finals, at an age when most pro tennis players are coaching kids.

But this was not the best part of the match. That came in the post match interview.
Agassi and Blake stood together out on the court with a reporter. James Blake was gracious, complimenting Andre Agassi, saying he was grateful just to have been part of this match, and the U.S. Open. Then Agassi humbly said the true winner was not himself, but tennis. He thanked the fans for staying, and complimented James Blake for being such a great competitor and athlete.

In this world of self-promoting, trash talking, felony committing, millionaire whining, steroid taking professional athletes, these two were a breeze of cleansing air.

It's an old idea, sportsmanship. But it's one of the things that made our society civilized. I think it's time for a comeback.

Books are another important item in our civilization. And a certain kind of "sportsmanship" is necessary here as well. Authors must respect their readers. How do you do that?

--You constantly improve your craft. My bookshelf is stuffed with writing books, which I return to constantly for reminders and renewed inspiration.

--You write a story that engages you emotionally, on some level. An old saying is "If there are no tears in the writer, there will be no tears in the reader." Never settle for surface level.

--You show "grace being offered" (see my previous post)

--You take some risks. Don't settle for same-old same-old. My buddy Angie Hunt is a perfect example. Talk about expecting the unexpected! Another pal, Lisa Samson, is the same way with a different kind of literature. In any genre, you can make a literary adventure.

Do these things the way Andre Agassi plays tennis. Dig deep, write hard, and when you're finished with your book, no matter where it lands, you'll be able to say you gave it your all. That's what champions are made of.

James Scott Bell, author of Sins of the Fathers


At 9:25 AM, Blogger Traci DePree said...

I'm glad to see someone else is a tennis fan. That was an excellent match as was the women's final--same wonderful sportmanship. It's the same reason I adore watching bicycling, a sport where competitors wait if someone falls off their bike. Thanks for the reminder that we're in this together, James.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

Thanks for this post. I'm always encouraged after reading them.


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