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    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Medical School is Crazy

    Nobody understands what doctors go through until they are there. I just finished my first round of exams, and as you might have noticed, have blogged little as of late. I have a blog on medical school, but even that is hard to find time for, let alone my passion on Vietnam and international politics that use TBE as a forum.

    Let me just tell you that doctors do not make nearly as much as the effort that is exerted. People think doctors make a ton of money, and most are compensated far better than average (i.e. top 5% of the country) but compare that with law, business, or another profession, and a doctor's time is cheap, pennies-on-the-dollar cheap, in comparison.

    So, next time you visit your doctor, thank him for surviving, yes, surviving medical school, so he can keep you healthy enough to bill your clients $100 an hour to do their legal stuff.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Ode to a Great One

    Photo taken from NY Times

    Goodbye. Farewell. Today I saw the end of an era. I still don't believe it ... well, I believe it, but my consciousness has yet to accept it. Andre Agassi is done. My family is a tennis family. Since my earliest days I remember sitting on Saturdays and Sundays watching two or four people hit a green felt ball back and forth, "click, clock! click clock! click clock!" the crowd silent, until some incredible angle was attempted and hit or a line painted. Then came deafening roars and cheers from my living room.
    To me, the only planet to live on was Planet Agassi

    By 10 years old the world revolved around two people -- no, not Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev -- Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Sure, there were others. Who can forget the memorable French open run of Chang? Or the Wimbledon of Malivai Washington a little later? But the Galaxy was determined. There were two planets: Planet Sampras and Planet Agassi. Everyone else were at best moons revolving around these two.

    Sure there were older players. I remember Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Boris Becker. But every brightly burning star eventually bloats to a red gas giant and then cools to a black dwarf. These great stars had no more light. The two that remained, revolving around each other, could not be any more different. To my young mind, Planet Sampras was pure power. Lightning serves rained down from his serene skies, points finishing quickly. I could hear a point: "ugh, pop! *grunt!* thunk!" and the ball had hit the wall behind the returner.


    Planet Sampras was always clean cut. His orbit was round and he stuck to it, never deviating. His private life stayed private, and people loved him for his mastery of the game.

    But I never could. To me, the only planet to live on was Planet Agassi. Whereas Sampras lived by a legendary serve, Agassi redefined returning serve. Agassi took serves so fast you couldn't help but say "ouch!" and laugh. Yes, it's impressive to throw a huge punch, ut how much more impressive is it to just stand there, take the punch without flinching, and rip one back so fast and hard that the other guy is on his back before he knows it? That was Agassi.

    "ugh, pop! *grunt* clock! thunk!"

    and the ball was in the wall behind the server.

    Planet Agassi had no appreciable standard orbit. As a kid I loved a player finally not wearing tennis whites with short, clean cut hair. Agassi was the youthful freedom we all sought. His long hair and flamboyant clothes defined his personality, the pirate, bucking against tradition and form. He was The Rebel. Even in commercials, it was the EOS Powershot Rebel. We all wanted to rebel.

    As the years rolled on I would cheer him in the great Sampras:Agassi matches. I mourned him when he hit bottom in the late 1990s. I thanked God for an answer to my prayers during his resurgence. My highschool days were marked by long hair too, hoping for the same statement I saw out of him a few years earlier.
    Agassi the rebel had returned from the dead as Agassi the Sage

    McEnroe was a firebrand, a misfit of sorts. Agassi was different. He was a phoenix. He lived a burning hot life, and when it ended, he arose back out of the ashes, reformed. After a year in the minor leagues Agassi returned, different. Everything I loved about him as a kid was gone, and everything I didn't like then I respected now. He and I had grown up. The hair was gone. Fashion cannot conquer genetics, and Agassi's pate had nothing on it. Bald. His clothes were white. Agassi the rebel had returned from the dead as Agassi the Sage.

    Planet Agassi's orbit became as regular as ever. He became the Monk of Tennis with his shaved head and all white ensemble. And more than his clothes, his words and actions spoke nirvana. As he won, Agassi relected on the greatness of tennis, its fans, and humanity. As he won, he put more and more money into charities such as his charter school for economically dsiadvantaged children in Las Vegas, NV. As he won, he became even more respected for that return, especially as his back continued to fail on him.

    The wounded warrior who falls to a great foe after a strong fight is more revered than the strong warrior who dispatches him. And so it was with Andre. Even down to his last tournament, I watched in awe as he took Baghdatis to five sets, winning in the end, and then Becker to four sets, losing close each set. It conjured up dreams of what he would be like, even at 36, with a good back. A couple more majors, Andre?

    21 years are over. The wise monk has finally retired to his mountain home. The bright star has burnt out with fury, not slowly. The stormy planet that grew calm has finally grown silent. I sat and watched his last match. I stood for points on ending hoping that the cosmos would align because of my superstitious actions and will him to victory. I screamed at the tv as an obviously tired Becker got lucky with big serves against an ailing Agassi.

    I cried when Agassi broke down in his chair, and again when he thanked the fans and people of New York for 21 great years. And I too said "Thank you, Andre."

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