The view from the basement
Rarely it happens that when you arrive at the last lego it’s the one you need- especially on those big pirate castles. Usually that frustrates, but it also forces one to use a little personal initiative and creativity.
Now I know this is supposed to be about sports, but forgive me if I take the long way around.
WU sports continue to impress me with their achievements. But more than that, it is the way in which they do it: the identity of self and the attitude of why they’re playing. It’s not total utilitarianism, but a healthy mix of personality, trust and positive thinking.
Sports stand as perhaps the quirkiest, most over-hyped institution known to man and has given us new figures of speech, new heroes to emulate and lines of philosophical thought that justify and rationalize the bounces of a ball.
But even to a sports editor, the dissecting analysis can get to be a bit ridiculous at times.
As a graduating senior, goals and ambitions have been made to seem like the magic rings of Bilbo Baggins. La fuerza poderosa. Without them there is no chance for success and happiness.
This emphasis on a narrow-minded definition of the word success has unfortunate consequences. Maybe I am just getting bitter as I enter the “real world”, but I am wary of the sharp spikes of that trap. And you should be too.
In sports, cheesy terms such as “commitment to excellence” and “drive to succeed” are thrown about like dirty laundry. They sound lofty and important, but in the end can result as more restrictive and prohibiting than motivating.
Sure, motivation should come from within, but work ethic should enable an enjoyable process, not just obsess on the result.
When Kansas lost in the Final Four last week to Maryland crass analysts called it a missed opportunity that left something unfulfilled. Screw that. No doubt Roy Williams and Co. would have liked more, but wallowing in the unrequited can only lead to regret and remorse.
It’s as if being satisfied represents some kind of weakness or lack of will. In reality, it is something we actually just aren’t very good at.
In John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, Doc Ricketts remarks,
“In a time when people tear themselves to pieces with ambition and nervousness and coveting they are relaxed. All of our so-called successful men are sick men, with bad stomachs, and bad souls, but Mack and the boys are healthy and curiously clean. They can satisfy their appetites without calling them something else. They just know the nature of things too well to be caught in the wanting”.
I feeling like I am attacking the American Dream here, but if that is so, this version of the dream has morphed into a ghoulish nightmare.
Knowing what one knows, and what one doesn’t know, gives someone real genuinely.
Attending games as a kid with my dad at Candlestick Park, we both shared a liking for the Giants’ second baseman, Robby Thompson. He was a scrappy little guy who didn’t hit many home runs, but always looked like he was having more fun out there than anyone else.
Thompson did not have amazing range or quickness either, yet his steadiness and hustle endeared him to the fans. He once took a ground ball to the face, giving him a black eye that Dallas Drake would be proud of. It didn’t keep him out though, and seemed somehow fitting.
I think Robby Thompson would have played baseball in a blizzard with a broomstick. And he would have loved it.
Professional sports captivates and is built on passion for the game. However, it also emphasizes winning and results as the ultimate denominators. I’m not advocating complacency, but we all know that there is more to it than that.
In my parting salute, I give big ups to those who give it an honest shot and don’t pander to the established order regardless of outcome. Not necessarily even as a conscious rebellion, but as a what-the-hell triumph of human spirit.
I like my Belgian waffles with whipped cream, strawberries and maple syrup. I like the opportunities that await after WU. And I like Robby Thompson.
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