Friday, February 17, 2012

The "Problem" with Sports

Mr. Brooks writes of a  modern day scenario of the dilemma faced by Joe Hardy in "Damn Yankees". Devotion to sports success ("The Jeremy Lin Problem") is equated with selling one's soul to the devil. By this treatise, one either lives in a moral universe where self is sublimated, or an immoral one where the search for greatness is to be demonized. To cast sport itself as Satan's playground is just nonsensical fantasy.

Sport does not only teach us to "put (ourselves) on display". Certainly there is ego involved in achievement, whether it be on the playing field, in the classroom or in the business world. Yet, in the context of athletic endeavor, I was instructed from my first days that the team is greater than the individual. and that highest level of success comes as a consequence of dedication to something larger than self.

It is the portrayal of athletics in such black and white terms that makes "The Jeremy Lin Problem" such a problem for me to swallow. It has the feel of right wing dogma where there is no nuance or subtlety, and everything is entirely right or wrong. Yes, there is a tension between individual glory and selflessness. But this does not make these 2 concepts mutually exclusive.

In sports, being humbled and humiliated is one of the lessons that is learned over and over. When the opportunity comes to escape the defeats, to get off the bench and somehow, almost miraculously lead the team to victory, this is not a failing but an achievement. And if you ask either Mr. Tebow or Mr. Lin, I am sure they will tell you that proving the critics wrong and showing them all that you are and can be is not evil incarnate, but rather a vivid reminder that there may be hidden value in each of us. And isn't looking for the best in our fellow man a moral lesson we should all learn? Sports, like life, is complex, and the insights to be gained from taking part in this endeavor are boundless. It does all of us a grave disservice is trying to make sport a villain in a morality play.

No comments: