ANY GIVEN MONDAY
It was way, way back in 2013 when stories about Roger Federer's impending retirement started pulsing.
The articles were largely "think pieces" by writers who were worried about the impact on his legacy if he continued playing.
Federer had endured a rusty old year by his platinum standards. A semifinal loss in Melbourne was his best grand slam result and he was knocked out in the second round of Wimbledon, his personal front lawn, by a bloke called Sergiy Stakhovsky.
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He finished the year "just" $3 million or so richer than he started, with a sore back and a ranking that had "plummeted" to No 6. Oh the horror.
It was generally accepted that the Swiss maestro would not be adding to his 17 grand slam titles. His all-court game had been made obsolete by the baseline counterpunchers and the precipitous decline would be too painful for purists to bear.
The subtext was that Federer owed it to himself and in a broader sense the sport itself to get out before he embarrassed himself.
What was largely missing from the debate from Federer himself.
He had no intention of retiring because he was no longer impregnable, even on grass courts. He had no intention of retiring because of this one simple fact: he loved what he did for a living.
Federer has crossed my mind a bit this week as the news of Daniel Carter's improbable Super Rugby return was digested.
As was to be expected we all needed to know why and as was to be expected the Blues had a pat answer that coach Leon MacDonald had shared with the squad hours before the official announcement.
"His motive is to give back to NZ rugby through sharing his experience/knowledge with us. Great opportunity to learn from one of the game's greats."
Later he would point out that it wasn't for the money because "he's not getting rich doing it".
This altruism sounds wonderful but it's also a handy deflection should anybody question why the best back-up option for the Blues was a 38-year-old Cantabrian that had played six games in 18 months.
It's a stunningly good piece of opportunism on the part of MacDonald and a brilliant way to divert attention from the fact the most populous region of New Zealand cannot produce playmakers. Even that strain of cynicism, however, shouldn't distract from the fact that like Federer, Carter continues to play because of one simple phrase.
It's good fun.
While Carter might have joked about MacDonald's powers of persuasion, nobody forced him to drag his old bones down to the training ground again. Nor can you convince me he's doing it to "give back". He's doing it because he loves rugby. Loves the changing room, loves the bants and loves the discipline and order it brings to life.
If he wasn't playing he'd still be thinking and talking about the sport. If health allows and he can keep the playing of it going a little longer and hold off the talking about it for a while, why wouldn't he?
You can't see him embarrassing himself. His acquired knowledge should save him from that fate. A worst-case scenario would see him quietly taking his place on the end of bench only to be used in blowouts.
It wouldn't be ideal (and again, questions would rightly be asked whether that spot wouldn't be more useful in the long-term to a much younger playmaker) but it wouldn't be ghastly either.
A genius quietly fading out of the picture isn't the worst way to go no matter how much it might offend your sensibilities.
Federer is 38 now and since the writing was thrown at the wall seven years ago he has amassed three more grand slam titles – which would be a stunning career in itself for 99.9 per cent of all professional tennis players – a Davis Cup, regained for a time his No 1 ranking and earned about $50m in winnings.
He's lost a lot more matches earlier in tournaments than he used to as well.
He's had a blast, too, and those who were writing him off seven years ago would have denied him that in order to protect their own memories.
Legends earn the right to carry on for too long.
If the prosecution was trying to pin Sean Fitzpatrick down for telling Welsh referee Derek Bevan to "f*** off" after France humiliated the All Blacks with the Try from the End of the World, they would need a better star witness than Nigel Owens.
Owens was a wonderful whistler and a noted raconteur but if his recollections from that Eden Park test in 1994 are anything to go by, he has the memory of a goldfish.
"New Zealand had been in control all game and Grant Fox had kicked to the corner late on," Owens told the House of Rugby podcast, unaware that Fox had retired a year earlier. Stephen Bachop was wearing the No 10 jumper and kicked the ball nowhere near the corner.
"There's a lineout, France win the ball and run it from behind their own posts."
There was no lineout. Phillippe Saint-Andre fielded Bachop's flubbed kick on his 22m about 15m in from touch.
"Philippe Saint-Andre starts it and France score this brilliant, brilliant try that's out of this world."
"Derek has given the try beneath the sticks and as he's walking back, Fitzpatrick and a few forwards are trudging back to get behind the posts for the conversion."
Jean-Luc Sadourny's try was scored wide out on the left, leaving a tricky angled conversion for a three-point buffer.
Fitzpatrick's defence team would have a field day pulling this apart.
THE MONDAY LONG READ
One positive thing to emerge from the horror of the George Floyd murder is the loud and articulate voices that many sports stars and coaches have lent to the debate. Some have done so at personal risk. I love this story about the NFL employee who went rogue to create one of the most powerful statements on the situation.
It worked too.