A New York Liberty Blog

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Life and Sports

Sports are a way of life. They always have been, and they always will be. I know some people demean both professional sports as a waste of time and those who follow them as the village idiots who live vicariously through people who will never know or care about their existence. It is these "high-minded" people, however, who are deluded. Sports and play are part of what is at the foundation to be human, and that will never change.

That is a heady claim, but think about it. I don't think there is anyone among us who has never participated in sports. Not just in the sense of the Olympics, or any of the major sports, or minor sports, or anything like that. Even as children we played tag and run-down and, though some moved on and now only exercise when walking to the fridge to get another beer, that part of us remains. It hides somewhere beneath the grey matter, tucked in a corner in the recesses of the human mind, but it is there, all the same. That desire to be something else, the need to win, to conquer, to be the best, if only in a game, and to have absolute control of the surroundings. That is what is at the heart of sports: to be in control.

As human beings, we need that illusion. As the world becomes ever smaller, there comes a realization that there are things in this world that we can never know, places that we will never see, people we will never meet, and things that we can never change. But on the court, in the rink, or along the base-paths, we can control our destinies, even if it is only for a few moments. When it comes down to it, sporting is about one person's ability to shape the world around them, and if he or she can do it well enough or fast enough, then you score. And you're ahead. It's simple. Points add up, and the best player(s) is the one with the best performance at the end wins. This isn't meta-physics; this is a person, two people, a team against the other, them, the world.

Whereas drama, art, and culture seem to enrich the mind and provoke higher thinking, sports do something else entirely. Sports remind us of what it is to be human. Man and woman, sweat pouring off of the body, one step, one bounce, one shot away from glory. There is a simple goal: achieve. Score, run, hit, pin, breathe, live, be. Everything else feeds into those moments of exhilaration and accomplishment. All of the complexities and politics of the outside world are reduced to a buzz in the background, barely distinguishable from the din of the crowd. Those who do the best are those can reduce that sound to a distant murmur, who focus only on the Now. There is a person stopping him or her from the goal, and that other person must be defeated. Sports are linked with that innate idea in life of survival at all costs. At their best, that is all. Kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten. Live or die.

No wonder that sex has become inextricably linked with sports in today's world. Both actions function as an outlet for that part in each of us that wants to remember what it was like to live as a beast. One is procreation, the other recreation (okay, so BOTH are recreation sometimes), and this imaginary construction is highly romanticized, but there it is in the end. We feed, we fight, we fuck, we live. At the beginning, we are born, and at the end, we die, and who can say for sure what comes before or after? Are we alone, or is there something more? We want to be a part of something - a team, a relationship, even a fleeting moment of compassion, triumph, and lust, all wrapped up in a ball of agony and ecstasy - something more than the doldrums that beleaguer our everyday lives. The clouds that overcast our lives can be dispelled through our actions and our actions alone. It is an empowering thought.

Sports give us that, at least: that idea that we are in some small part crafters of our own fate. It is intimidating to think about all of the things out in the world that are beyond our control (Iraq, the economy, the weather, even the mail), and if one thinks about it for too long, it can have a debilitating effect on the idea of meaning for this world. If we DON'T have control, if there ISN'T something beyond this, then what is the point?

The point is accomplishment, doing something with what we have when we have it while we're here. We all want to be a part of something and to achieve some kind of immortality before we pass on and our bodies turn to dust. Sports let us taste from the Tree of Life, if only for a brief second. Our lungs ache, but we strain further, while our legs pound against the ground and our heads reel and deal with a thousand small bits of information at once. He's there. She's ahead. The wind. The distance. My ankle. The ball.

We are there, and we alone. At that moment, we are Gods. That is what it means to be alive, to know of our own existence and to accept it without question. That is life. That is Sport.

Regular post to be up in the afternoon, around 2 o'clock. I have a lot of work to get through, and to be fair, there's not a lot of news to go around today.

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