Tuesday, September 05, 2006


On Sunday afternoon, I watched Andre Agassi play his last professional tennis match at the U.S. Open. For those of you who don't know, I am a huge tennis fan having played in high school and various men's tournaments in my twenties. Agassi was one of those killer players I attempted to copy and style my play after, albeit in vain.

Andre Agassi, age 36, played two early round matches that were for the ages. He wasn't supposed to win his first match much less his second where he knocked off the #8 seed of the tournament. Yet this wiley veteran played with the emotion and passion of a man half his age. I knew watching him I was watching one of the greats for the last time. I drank it up and enjoyed every minute of it. I was out there sweating on court with him if only in spirit.

On Sunday, ailing from a bad back and exhausted from his first two matches, age and time caught up with Andre. The fire and intensity he played with previously didn't ever seem to ignite. He was tired. It was time. He lost and with it, we all lost someone special. A true inspiration and one of the all-time greats of the game!

The lesson I learned from this amazing experience was Andre spent 21 years playing for us all. He gutted out wins and grand slam championships when people had counted him out. He showed what will and determination can earn you if you are just willing to put in the time, the effort and the hard work. His never give up attitude stands as a modern day example of truly eclipsing the nuts and bolts of doing his job and becoming the "best" in his profession. Something we can all do if you truly think about it!

As the crowd at the USTA Billy Jean King National Tennis Center applauded Andre as he sat in his chair soaking in the moment and trying but not succeeding to hold back his tears, you couldn't help but appreciate the moment. 23,000 New Yorkers sent Andre into official retirement the right way; giving him a standing ovation and letting him hear just how much he was adored, appreciated and loved.

Imagine how it might have felt to be Andre at that moment. I know that the outpouring of emotion from both Andre and the crowd serves as motivation to me. I want that when I finally decide to hang it up. I want people who I have impacted to reward me with that kind of appreciation.

Though I know my send off won't be in a stadium surrounded by tens of thousands of people, I am content to know that I want to be a champion in my life and make an impact on as many people as humanly possible. I want to strive to be as great as I can be, here now and tomorrow and like Andre said in his farewell speech, take the memory of each and every one of you with me when my last ball sails long and its time to go.

Thanks for the memories Andre! You truly defined what it means to be a champion on and off the court. Most of all thanks for being the kind of person that so many of us aspire to be! Enjoy your retirement. You deserve it!

Until next time my friends.....

Ripple On!!!

Steve Harper

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