Grease Lightning, the Greatest
Fan: the only constant loyalty in human life. In this age of information flow where space and time turns irrelevant, one starts to become a sports fan at 5-6. And one turns into a committed follower even before touching double digits. For the next 70-80 years of his or her life, this is the only loyalty that stays on.
You can have affairs, a broken marriage, changing tastes of food and clothing, evolving views on politics. But a Usain Bolt fan at 5 will remain a Bolt fan at 80. So much so that 50 years down the line, he or she won’t take a backseat in arguing that Bolt, come what may, remains the greatest.
Yes, there was Carl Lewis in 1984, 1988 and 1992. And yes, Lewis has won multiple Olympic gold medals. But Bolt, in every sense, has eclipsed every other athlete. With one finger on his lip, Bolt could turn the whole Olympic stadium quiet, and with one lightening pose — like at the end of his last individual race on Saturday night — he sent spectators in the stands to ruptures. He captivated us all and did so time and again. And that’s how was nurtured a loyalty like no other.
As Bolt bent down to start the last race of his life, time had come to a standstill. The result was of little consequence to many of us. Won or lost, Bolt was already the declared champion, and each and every one of us wanted to hold on to those 9-something seconds. Each time the clock ticked passed a second, a lump formed in a million throats worldwide.
Bolt was one step closer to never race again. Each strain of muscle and each lunge forward to make up for that poor start brought to mind frames of achievement from Beijing to London and to Rio. He had made up for poor starts all his life and he will again, we thought. Just as the runners reached the last 10 metres, it seemed he had it covered. It was Bolt territory.
But not this time. Even the final thrust wasn’t enough. But did it really matter? The winner Justin Gatlin wasn’t even being shown by the TV cameras. The crowd wasn’t celebrating him either. It was all Bolt as he started one final lap of the London Stadium. From meeting his parents to doing interviews to that final moment when he did that lightning pose, the greatest showman had all his fans glued to him.
This is one loyalty that will never be taken away from us. More powerful than nationalism, this is what makes modern sport the global marketers’ dream. Brand Bolt, despite the third place finish, is at its most powerful. In fact, his ‘loss’ has added sheen to his legend, now that we know there is a tinge of mortality to his immortality. He, too, can lose. Donald Bradman had scored a duck in his last innings. Diego Maradona finished second best to Germany with Andreas Brehme netting the penalty in 1994. Roger Federer and Michael Phelps have both lost on occasions. Bolt has too in the final individual race of his life.
But just like the other greats mentioned here, Bolt, too, will go down in history as the greatest. At least to his legion of fans worldwide. And this community will forever remain a constant.
He'll never run out