The concept of a sport riding on an individual seems very strange, but it does happen. Not that the sport ceases to exist if the individual retires, but then there will be a dent or a void which will take some years and some new individuals to fill. And sadly, a generation of fans idolizing on that single individual would no longer have the same interest in that sport.
I saw this happening to me when Michael Schumacher retired in 2006. I was an ardent fan of F1 and Michael, and never missed a race. But after he retired I hardly watched couple of races. Somehow the track never seemed the same without him. The max I would do, is follow the sport through newspaper and websites. Many people I talked to reflected the same feeling.
I fear my love for cricket would die the same death. I have idolized and admired Sachin Tendulkar for more than a decade now. Not only for his antics on the cricket field but also the way has he handled himself off it. I don’t see any sportsman who carries a billion expectations and has such huge popularity and fan following, not making any errors off the field. He has been an inspiration and a role-model like no other. He deserves to be called “the greatest sportsperson the world has ever seen” for the sole reason that he has handled himself beautifully despite everything. I dread the moment he calls it a day and I dread having to switch on the TV and watch another opener instead of Sachin. But again life goes on and cricket will search for another hero. But the generation who has followed Sachin would feel an emptiness which will be difficult to fill. Already I don’t watch cricket when he is not playing and many times I stop watching when he gets out, and I can only imagine how it will be when he retires for good.
These were heroes of the sport who have made the sport famous across the globe, and without whom the sport will take a beating. It might take another lifetime to find such heroes and during that time the administrators can only pray for mitigating the impact.
PS: This post was inspired by the return of Michael Schumacher to F1 and I am already looking forward to the first F1 race of the season at