The Superstar Advantage

Great article on wired magazine looking at the competitive advantage or stardom.

Here is an extract:

Before long, I think that we’ll look back on these years of golf and tennis and marvel that two men — Roger Federer and Tiger Woods — were able to utterly dominate their sports. These athletes didn’t just win tournaments; they seemed to expand the possibilities of the game. David Foster Wallace, in his 2006 profile of Federer, summarized the allure of watching a physical genius play a game better than anyone else has ever played it:

Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.

The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.

But now comes the inevitable denouement, as both Woods and Federer struggle to maintain their supremacy. Woods, of course, has his personal melodrama and bum leg to blame, while Federer (and this is why his arc is so poignant) seems to be undone by the ordinary effects of aging. (And he’s not even 30!) Although it’s clear that both men aren’t playing at the exalted level of their peak — and that their competition has gotten better — I think there’s an additional phenomenon that accelerates their decline: Both Federer and Woods have lost their superstar status. And that turns out to be a significant competitive loss.

Read the full article at


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