Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest Blogger: Introducing Ben Russell

I don't know why I never thought of asking others to send me submissions...perhaps it was my sense that no one was actually reading. Well, that may still be the case, but a former student read an earlier post and sent me a note on FB. His response was so well written, and so better captured the ideas I was trying to explain, that I felt I had to post his excellent reply. His musings remind us that, no matter how often we tell ourselves that we can see new stories, all the stories in the world have been told again and again, were old even by the time of Homer.


I don't follow tennis actively but I do like to read about genius. Regardless, I had a thought while reading your piece that I wanted to run past you. I couldn't help but compare these players to Homeric heroes. It's not just their physical prowess or the "warfare" on the tennis court but also the nature of these players. Federer is obviously Achilleus. His skill, manner and confidence on the court completely mirrors the swift footed half-god in battle. You even describe his shot as sublime. This is a just word.

But what really stamped this idea in verification was your depiction of Djokovic in the wake of the godlike shot. "I'm not going to win this match—even if I am at my best, and I am, there is no way for me to defeat or even come close to this man. " For your interest (whether it be large or small), look at this passage from the Iliad where Hector is fighting Achilleus in front of the walls of Troy. "And Hector knew the truth inside his heart, and spoke outloud: 'No use. Here at last the gods have summoned me deathward... So it must long since have been pleasing to Zeus, and Zeus' son who strikes from afar (Apollo) this way; though before this they defended me gladly. But now my death is upon me.'" Though Hector credits his strength to the gods and Djokovic credits his skill to himself, the feeling of helplessness in the face of divinity is mutual.

Federer's jump of unabashed celebration of his shot also harkens back to the vaunting that Achilleus does over bodies that he has slain. "But what I can do with hands and feet and strength I tell you I will do, and I shall not hang back even a little... I think that no man of the Trojans will be glad when he comes within my spear's range"


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