Summer is always full of sporting events.
In particular, there is the All-Star game in Major League Baseball, with the American League once again dominating the National League. There is the conclusion of the NBA playoffs with the San Antonia Spurs taking home the prize. Football lovers can’t wait for the beginning of pre-season football in the NFL. There is, of course, the PGA British Open, held this year at the “Old Course,” in Saint Andrews, Scotland. And by this time next week, we will know the results of the torturous Tour de France annual cycling race. And there’s Wimbledon where the best in tennis match their skills.
It was a sad moment last Friday as the cameras gave full coverage to a departing Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer to play the game. The matches over the last several decades between Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, and Gary Player were nothing if not spellbinding. To see Jack stop atop the Swilken Bridge on the 18th hole at Saint Andrews brought tears to my eyes. I’m soft that way. I didn’t want to see Jack go. He was the consummate gentleman, treating everyone with kindness and respect.
I was struck by Jack’s comments after the final round. One reporter asked him what Jack thought his legacy in golf might be. His reply was wonderful. He dismissed his legacy in golf. He’d leave that for others to determine. His most important legacy was to his family. He felt if he’d not left the proper legacy with his kids and grandkids, golf would mean nothing.
It’s in fact true that Jack purposefully played fifteen or so golf tournaments a year so he could be home with his wife and kids. Other professional golfers are in tournaments every weekend. Many have suffered in their family life while pursuing a prize. This prize may be a jug, as in the Claret Jug at Saint Andrews; or a silver bowl; or some other expensive trinket that my wife refers to as “dust collectors.”
Tiger Woods, the best player in golf today, continues to march toward greatness, winning his tenth Major Championship. He won the British Open going away on Sunday, holding high the Claret Jug, sealing it with the required kiss for the cameras and posterity. Jack Nicklaus is Tiger’s idol. So, as Tiger racks up the Major Tournament wins in his quest to beat Jack’s record of 18 Majors, I would like to encourage Tiger to emulate Jack’s family life as well. The twenty-nine year old Tiger was married in the last year or so. I hope he understands the importance of a legacy to his new family. I was encouraged by the young man’s comments after his victory. He looked into the TV cameras and spoke personally to his ailing father, “I just want to say, ‘Dad, I love you and thank you.’”
The incredible feats of America’s Lance Armstrong in his quest to win an unprecedented seventh Tour de France is almost a done deal. With one week to go, ending in Paris this Sunday, the best cyclist ever is poised for greatness. Virtually owning the coveted “Yellow Jersey,” he is ahead in the race and continues to spread the gap between himself and his rivals. Barring a disaster, he’s a shoe-in for the victory lap around the Champs Elysees on Sunday. I really want to see Lance win his last race. But I can’t help but feel some sadness for him. He has endured and overcome so much, particularly with his battle against testicular cancer. Yet, his first marriage fell apart.
People strive for greatness, for a goal, a prize, recognition, or simply to be the best at something. Too often this is achieved at the expense of family, leaving a legacy of failure and regret.
You may not strive for jugs or jerseys, but you will leave a legacy. How do you want to be remembered?
Be like Jack. Build a lasting family.