I know what stupendous pressure is like. I feel deeply, sincerely, wholeheartedly and fervently for all the greatest of the great Olympic athletes. I’ve been there.
Every semester, for 25 years up to the time of my retirement, heavy expectations were put on me. The school newspaper would report my whereabouts for three days before classes began. Students would clamor for the over-rides needed to attend my courses. It was not uncommon for students to write in their end-of-semester evaluations, “The whole point of coming to this college is to study with Professor Sidney Gendin.” A heavy responsibility but never an onerous one. I was up to it. Every semester, a student representative of the school newspaper came to my office:
Rep: Professor, what did it mean to you to be selected once again as Best of Best?
Best: Always an occasion for profound humility.
Rep: Doctor, can you put in words how you felt when the (usual) announcement of your selection was placed in the newspaper?
Best: Not really, but I can say I could not have achieved this honor for the 50th time without the help of my colleagues.
Rep: What do you mean, Sir?
Best: Suppose, per impossible, that one of my colleagues had a bit of talent for teaching. Who can say for certain how that might have wrecked the rankings?
Rep: Is it true, Most Glorious Sir, that you have decided to retire and won’t defend your crown?
Best: Every man must know when it is time for him to bow out, to do so gracefully, as I am doing now.
Rep: Most Noble Potentate, we will all surely miss you. You have been an inspiration to all of us who have ever dreamt of taking up this august profession.
Best: I would hope so.
Rep: You will no longer live in the glare of the spotlight. Can you put in words how that will feel?
Best: Not exactly, but I have two cases of extra-heavy duty sunscreen I can sell you dirt cheap.
Rep: Will you now revert to the title you wore prior to the last 46 years? I mean, of course, “Mister.”
Best: Absolutely not. Do former presidents go back to being just plain “mister”? Do members of the health profession return to “Mister”? Does the Blessed Almighty rest content with being remembered as “Creator of Heaven and Earth”?
Rep: Your point?
Best: I’m working on it. I’ll get back to you.