He is the number one squash player in the world. He is playing his own country man who is seeded 8th in the tournament and who is one of the top ten players in the world. On what must be a bitterly cold Chicago March night, he's come out to play his usual immortal squash before 35 spectators and five times as many empty seats. You cannot help but notice the empty seats, they stick out like a goiter on he neck, a boil on the cheek, it's mystifying on one level, but on another level it is something so pure and beautiful.
Nick Matthew, the number one player in the world would, if you asked him, play a final with one hand tied behind his back, he'd play a tournament in hell, he'd play his best squash with a snow shovel, he would play, because he plays purely for the love of this game. I'm up late after a really long day, the baby is finally asleep, the house is quiet and now, with PSA Live TV on my computer, I must be in some kind of heaven. But if I was there, one of the 35 watching this match, I'd want to take in the moment, this epiphany of sorts, and tell him that what he is doing is beyond what anyone could expect. I want to tell him that what he is doing is creating not only a personal glory for himself, but for this incredible game, squash.
That Nick Matthew might never play for his country in the Olympics or ever get a million dollar endorsement; how he plays and what he exhibits is the true embodiment of the Keatsian pursuit of truth and beauty on this here earth. I know pounds and dollars and euros rule the spectrum of professional sports accolades but step back a bit. Look at the small crowd. What you do and are doing transcends all the marketing, the dollars, the cents, and we admire you for simply doing something for the love of what you do. When most of us labor every day to make a dollar and hope to get recognized by our boss so we might at year's end make a few more dollars, if you were to ask them would they do what they do for free simply because they love what they do, most likely the answer would be an emphatic 'NO'. If you were to tally how many people simply do something for the love of what they do, who do something they love for no rhyme or reason, you would find probably 35 people sitting in the stands admiring something so great and grand. When it is all said and done those 35 people sitting in the stands are the ones who 30 years from now will be talking about how they saw Nick Matthew play Peter Barker on a cold Chicago winter night in 2014 -- and one writer who wanted to use his words to cherish this moment, whether or not anyone should ever read what he wrote. He simply loves to write.