Around the Bases

Tariq Engineer

A 41-year-old who has now won nine times on the PGA Tour, earning more than $10 million in the process. A 42-year-old won the National League Cy Young award by going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA. A 40-year-old won the N.L. MVP award (and batting title) with a .362 average, 45 home runs and an obscene .609 on-base percentage.
While it may be surprising to see individuals in their 40s dominating their respective sports, nobody should be surprised that these particular individuals are at the top of their sports.
Vijay Singh practices harder and longer than anyone else on the PGA Tour. Deep trench-like divots on the practice range are a sure sign that Singh was there, hitting hundreds of golf balls for hours on end. Singh loves to practice, always looking for the next perfect, pure, golf shot, and the exhilaration that comes with it. The results are there for all to see.
Roger Clemens’ workout regime is legendary. The Rocket has prided himself on being in the best possible physical shape to allow him to do what he does as well as he does it. Without his strong work ethic, Clemens would never have collected a seventh Cy Young at an age when most pitchers tend to be drawing retirement benefits.
There can be no doubting Barry Bonds’ work ethic and discipline either. Bonds, like Clemens, is almost maniacal about being in shape. Everything starts with a sound body. One cannot perform at the highest (in Bonds’ case otherworldly) level if one isn’t in the best possible shape. One certainly doesn’t win seven MVP awards that way. Bonds has won the league’s last four MVP awards. To put that achievement in perspective: nobody else in major league history has more than three.
All of which is to say that talent alone isn’t enough. Dwight Gooden was as talented as any pitcher in history, but talent only takes you so far. If you want to be the best, then you have to marry talent to hard work. What makes Bonds, Singh and Clemens all the more special is that even in their 40s they are still willing to put in the work. And that’s why they are still among the best in the world at what they do.