Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: The Art of the Game

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Art of the Game

Most of my adult life I've been part of what are unilaterally considered esoteric, spiritual, leftist, arty communities. Now these communities are not known for their sympathies toward professional sports--or even college as far as I can tell. So, in Seattle, and other various places I've lived, I've had a hard time finding game buddies: People who want to watch the Word Series, or the World Cup, or the SuperBowl, or the Final Four, or the NBA Championships.

Generally I just get a shrug, sometimes a scoff, and on the rare occassion, actual scorn. The high-minded liberals especially love to point out the obvious paradox in being a fan and my political positions re: corporate greed, etc. And yet, with all that said, I don't want to seem to be defending my position, but rather, feel moved to write an apology of sorts for the art of the athlete. I am not one myself, but neither am I a painter, sculptor, etc., but I do love the game and the notion of excellence, the gift, and ultimately self-expression.

So when you see grown men running around chasing a ball, I see a man dedicated to the perfection of his craft. When you see a borderline childish fit, I see a mind and a will working to convince the body to perform, to overcome circumstance. Granted the great athletes are fewer and fewer, yet they are still there. Imagine my delight to see Kenny Rogers on the mound--still. I remember being a fan of his 20 years ago! He still works his ground game, he stays late and arrives early. All the greats had talent and skill but they also worked and worked hard: Magic, Clyde, Jordan, Bird.

My piano teacher once gave me a list of all the qualities that talent included but in the end, she said it came down to discipline. I've kept that note for over 28 years as a reminder, that with all my gifts and talents, which are many, the only true merit is in the discpline, which has been a long time in coming, if it has arrived at all. (That point is debatable I would imagine.)

So these men push themselves to become extraordinary and I admire them--despite the contradiction--or maybe because of it. They sacrifice being with their families on Thanksgiving so that I can sit on the couch and relax after gorging myself on stuffing. They sacrifice their bodies to a regimine that often cripples them in their old age. They hone their minds to the single-pointed stillness such that despite winning and losing, they can continue to go on and play another round, get up to the plate one more time, step up to the line.

Hats off to the athlete and the art of the game.


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