The Tale of Two Athletes

Chris Rock had a joke in his stand-up act about the 1980’s rivalry between Prince and Michael Jackson.

The joke: Prince won.

Granted, the joke doesn’t come across as funny without his delivery (or set-up), but the point is there was a time when these two people were considered fairly equivalent in terms of popularity and coolness. However over the course of time, they diverged so much. Prince continued writing hit songs for a myriad of people and still was respected for his novelty and musicianship all the way until his death. Michael Jackson touched kids.

This is sort of the same thing as the Federer vs Tiger friendly rivalry.

Ten years ago, when Fed and Tiger were at the top of their game, there was a lot of sports talk discussion about who dominates more in their sport. Federer was en route to passing Pete Sampras’s 16 Grand Slam titles and Tiger was trending towards breaking Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors. Both are individual sports. Both are country club sports with a long history. Yes, a very natural comparison to make.

Even later on, both players waned at about the same time. Tiger had a divorce, got hurt, etc, and fell from grace. Fed had twins, got hurt, and fell from the top 16. Even though Fed broke the all-time Grand Slam record, his legacy as the GOAT was questioned as was Tiger’s.

Then Fed won the Australian Open this season. Then he won Wimbledon without dropping a set. All at the age of 35, a ripe old age for a tennis player. On the other hand, Tiger cannot even play golf anymore at 41; not a ripe old age from a golfer.

In other words, Fed won.

It is a funny thing how time changes our perspective of things. Michael Jackson was a titan in 1984. Thriller was amazing and his popularity was immense. Now all of that is a distant memory. While Prince, playing second fiddle during most of the 80’s, clearly won the race.

I wonder how Tiger Woods will be remembered in 20 years. However I do know how Fed will be remembered.