What's not to love about Andre Agassi? In a span of 20 years the man has run the gamut. He started his career as a reluctant yet effective poster boy for narcissism and corporate megawhoring, and finished it as a born again saint who'd finally made peace with himself and the game he both loved and hated. All the while, Agassi's been so much more than the haircut and a forehand that he was rumored to be in the early stages of his career, and more importantly, so much more than the "image is everything" touter that Madison Ave. ad-execs paid him to be.
For Andre, it was never just about the tennis, or the image, and you have to love him for that. It can be so easy for larger-than-life personalities like himself to get lost in all the attention and the fawning that comes with being a star and become desensitized to the world that surrounds them. After a tumultuous tennis career that saw Agassi run the spectrum from underachiever to brash young star on the rise to beaten down over-the-hill veteran in decline to -- finally -- sentimental favorite and man of the people, Agassi will now begin on what he perceives to be his true mission in life: providing educational opportunities for under privileged and at-risk children.
When the sporting world came to welcome Andre into its Hall of Fame community on July 9th, it was fitting that students from Andre's charter school were on hand to help commemorate Agassi's magnificent achievements.
Because for Andre, it's about the kids now. This is not some smoke he's blowing up your you-know-what to win your votes. The man has found his true calling in life and he's following his muse.
Isn't that refreshing? If you're an athlete and you're contemplating retirement at the age of 35, isn't it good to know that you don't have to stop living, to stop dreaming, or to stop competing? Sure, you're not likely to be standing on a field of dreams with hordes of crazed admirers chanting your name ever again, but it doesn't mean that you (the retired athlete) don't still have your biggest days ahead of you, and your grandest accomplishments too.
But the lesson of Agassi reaches beyond the athlete. It speaks to all of those -- regardless of age, social standing or financial means -- who want to have a calling in life, and who have not found it yet. There is still time! Because if Andre Agassi can reinvent himself at the end of his tennis career, then so can a lot of other athletes, and regular Joe's too.
Kudos to Agassi, for never being happy with just being an athlete, and for always searching for a way to transcend the sport so that he could ensure that his legacy reaches far beyond tennis.
His is a great example for all of us to heed. Life doesn't end with your first career. You can make mistakes and fall behind in your twenties, thirties, whatever, but if you pay attention to who you are, are willing to look inside yourself for answers to the difficult questions, and maintain the desire to make a difference in this world, you too can find a calling in life.
For me that's what Agassi represents: that faction of people who've been lost at some point. We can all lack purpose at times, and it's nothing to be ashamed of.
In Agassi we see a man who needed time to find himself, but when he did, he was more dimensional and more gracious than we ever thought possible. And he's only just begun to make a difference.
Maybe the same goes for some of us.