A scant three weeks has passed since the Masters golf tournament, and I’m still thinking of what Herbert Warren Wind, the incomparable sports writer who died in 2005, would have thought watching Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player drive off on the first tee at the ceremonial opening of the Masters. Their decrepit swings, pale echoes of the exultant greatness of their primes, made me very sad and I wondered. . . . . .
So I emailed Herb’s nephew and asked him if he could channel Herb and ask him about it. Bill replied that he thought Herb would have been okay with the pale echoes of former greatness. “He always got a kick out of Sarazen, Snead, Nelson, hockeying it off the first tee when they were in their early 100s. He’d turn to me and laugh and say ‘”Pretty damn good.’”
I hadn’t thought of that. But I think Bill got it right. That’s just what Herb would have said. But I’m not okay with it, and I would have replied, “Herb, doesn’t it just make you think of them when they were in the flush of their careers, and young, and in the vanquishing ascendancy of their greatness? Doesn’t it make you think what a falling off there’s been?”
The poet William Butler Yeats (with liberties taken):
“They say that men improve with the years;
And yet, and yet,
O would that you had seen me swing
When I had my burning youth!
But I grow old among dreams,
A weather-worn, marble triton
Among the streams.”
T.S. Eliot (liberties taken): “Currents under sea pick our bones in whispers. As we rise and fall we pass the stages of our age and fall, entering the whirlpool of our oldness. O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, Consider Phlebas and Arnold, Jack and Gary, and Gene and Sam and Byron, who were once handsome and tall as you.”