Peter de Noronha wrote ‘Old Soldiers never die, they only fade away, which has now been commuted to, they never die but only get slightly out of focus’. Can as much be said of Michael Schumacher’s return to F1?
At 41 (as of January 3, 2010) he is not the youthful figure he once was in the world of professional sport. But in a game that requires a high level of mental acumen, unparalleled technology and a professional team he is also not past his expiry date. Experience is all that matters in F1 now' wrote Michael’s long time team mate Rubens Barrichello on Twitter and no one alive has more experience in F1 than Schumi. Paired with Ross Brawn (mastermind of all 7 of Schumacher’s championships) it is a world beating combination.
But that is all just technicals. What is more ‘on paper’ technicals. How many teams have been the best on paper, only to fall short of the prize come match day. Such a reality is all the more prevalent among old warriors trying to relive their glory battle days. Once the greats of their sport, they cling onto the spot light until the light fades. Would it not be better to end on top as a world-beater rather than as world beaten, with every hack scoring victories over a once great champion?
The answer to this fundamental thought has to be no. It is not better to retire for the sake of retirement. If tired of the game, the lifestyle or wishing to pursue other ventures, then retirement is the logical and best choice. But if the hunger, the fitness and talent are there, they should be on show so that the entire world may marvel. It serves as a constant reminder that past brilliance can never be tarnished by any one defeat. It is wrong to say that we can only fail to try, but it is right to acknowledge that once great the act or person or team remains great for eternity. Every breath genius takes and every step it makes is a marvel. Schumacher may not capture the world title in 2010, but it will be awe inspiring to watch all the same.
De Noronha recognized this and continued the line of thought with which I began this article; ‘however, the focus must be pretty sharp, for we find our retired Soldiers are in great demand and they secure ready employment in large organisations in the public and private sectors’. That money and fame continues to chase talent after its retirement is the most tangible mark of its quality. The past has a limited capacity to attract attention, but hope for the future is unlimited in its ability to pull people to events. It is not only because of whom Michael was, that people will turn on and tune in during the 2010 season, it is because of who he was that people will know who he will be; committed and ultimately victorious.
Cicero wrote that people who have no knowledge of history are like children, trapped in the most transitory tense possible, the present. Not knowing from whence they came or wither they go. But those who remember the achievements of the past will be able to plot the future. As such they know where the greats are going and be in a position to watch when they perform their next breath taking feats of skill, ingenuity and wondrous creativity.