I caught Senna on Netflix, and while it’s a very affecting and restrained documentary, I kept thinking of David Foster Wallace’s essay “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart.”
In the essay, DFW wonders why Austin, whose tennis talent ranked among the world’s best, could be so inarticulate about the mechanics of such talent. She had an incredibly disciplined force of mind on the court; why couldn’t she apply it inward? He considers that, as Bloomberg says, we’re asking the wrong question. A lack of self-probing may be integral and necessary to the rigor world-class athletes possess.
Watching Ayrton Senna ascend spectacular heights as a Formula One driver (winning three world championships by age 31), it’s DFW’s essay in action. Senna believes in God, racing, and Brazil. He’s not a philosopher, nor prone to questioning what makes him so good. He just is.