Friday, September 26, 2008

Roger Federer as Religious Experience

The colossal talents David Foster Wallace and Roger Federer crossed paths at the 2006 Wimbledon championships. Wallace marked the occasion with a graceful paean to Federer for PLAY, the New York Times' sports magazine, entitled "Roger Federer as Religious Experience."

Its core assertion:
If you've never seen [Roger Federer] play live, and then do, in person, on the sacred grass of Wimbledon, ... you are apt to have what one of the tournament's press bus drivers describes as a "bloody near-religious experience." It may be tempting, at first, to hear a phrase like this as just one more of the overheated tropes that people resort to to describe the feeling of Federer Moments. But the driver's phrase turns out to be true — literally, for an instant ecstatically.

What David Foster Wallace did with a pen, Roger Federer does with a racket. And notwithstanding Wallace's take on the reductiveness of watching tennis on video ("the truth is that TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love"), we celebrate the brilliance of these two men with this week's installment of Friday Live:


Brian said...

He is just as classy off the court as well. Federer was the only Professional Tennis player to go visit James Blake when he was in the hospital recovering.

Ben said...

He is an outstanding ambassador for the sport, with an admirable humility and sense of place. As I once wrote in this space, Federer speaks five languages and exudes class in all of them.

As Wallace (himself an amazing guy in so many ways) put it:

"Journalistically speaking, there is no hot news to offer you about Roger Federer. He is, at 25, the best tennis player currently alive. Maybe the best ever. Bios and profiles abound. '60 Minutes' did a feature on him just last year. Anything you want to know about Mr. Roger N.M.I. Federer — his background, his home town of Basel, Switzerland, his parents’ sane and unexploitative support of his talent, his junior tennis career, his early problems with fragility and temper, his beloved junior coach, how that coach’s accidental death in 2002 both shattered and annealed Federer and helped make him what he now is, Federer’s 39 career singles titles, his eight Grand Slams, his unusually steady and mature commitment to the girlfriend who travels with him (which on the men’s tour is rare) and handles his affairs (which on the men’s tour is unheard of), his old-school stoicism and mental toughness and good sportsmanship and evident overall decency and thoughtfulness and charitable largess — it’s all just a Google search away. Knock yourself out."