I develop an itch and a wild tic when the frequently abused adverb "ever" is tacked on to any statement (or question for that matter). I have a condition called HSD (Hyperbole Sensitivity Disorder). It is a companion affliction to HDS - be careful not to confuse them- which is Hug Deprivation Syndrome. The latter is treated easily with extravagant, prolonged and regular embraces. The former is not so easily dealt with. The best solution I have found is complaining. the other option is ignoring, but this is much less satisfying in my opinion.
Naturally, my hyperbole meter went berserk this week when I heard Tiger Woods' victory at the 2019 Masters described as the greatest sporting comeback ever. It was later referred to as "arguably the greatest ever" which was more palatable, but in either case it got me thinking. Was this a statement of fact, or yet another example of the gross exaggerations typical of sports journalists?
Woods came back from a double stress fracture of the tibia, numerous back injuries and surgeries, as well as the personal fall from grace which resulted from his public confession of infidelity. Until this year's Masters he had not won a major for five years. Countless athletes have come back from serious injuries - both life threatening and career threatening. Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 NFL season due to multiple neck surgeries, then changed clubs and continued his record breaking career for another three years. Niki Lauda was back behind the wheel of his Ferrari F1 six weeks after an horrific race accident left him comatose with severe burns to his head and damage to his lungs from inhaling toxic gases when he was trapped in the wreckage. Surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her arm in a shark attack, but jumped back on the board and kept surfing.
You want more? No problem. Monica Seles quit tennis for two years after being stabbed in the back on the court, by a deranged fan. Andre Agassi went right off the rails in 1996 as his marriage fell apart, and a drug habit blossomed as he struggled with a chronic wrist injury. Two years later aged 31, he burst back into the top 3. Aged 45, George Foreman came out of a ten year retirement to win the world heavyweight boxing championship by knocking out a man 18 years his junior. And one more from the only one of all those sports which holds absolutely no interest at all for me personally: golf.
Ben Hogan was told he might never walk again, let alone play golf following a motor vehicle accident which left him with a double fracture of the pelvis, fractures to the collar bone and left ankle, and during his three month stay in hospital, a series of life threatening blood clots. The following year he began playing professional golf once more, and three years after his accident he won the Triple Crown.
Depending on which criteria you use (severity of injuries, length of time out of the game, degree of psychological stress) any one of the aforementioned champions, and numerous others could be awarded the title of greatest sporting comeback ever. Woods get the nod because he is the most recent, but his is definitely not the greatest comeback. Nor are any of the other amazing resurrections I've mentioned.
Here is, in my opinion, the greatest sporting comeback of all time. At the age of 46, an Australian man* from Dapto, ended a 30 year retirement from soccer by signing up to play for Dapto Anglican Church in the Illawarra church league. The first, and subsequent training sessions nearly killed him, and on game day he was competing mostly against men half his age. During the season he suffered a grade four hip flexor tear, and a broken rib. These injuries cost him 6 weeks on the sideline, but he pushed through the pain of rehab, and returned to play a minor role in his team's premiership victory.
Now that's a comeback!
*Following the glorious victory I retired and have been boasting of my achievement ever since.