Athletes are performers, more like actors than anything. And what liars they are. All those interviews where the star says the only thing that matters is that the team wins, well, that's pretty much not true. Sure, they'd rather be on a good team than a bad one -- like actors who would rather be in a hit than a flop. But their own performance is what matters. In a way, actors are more honest than athletes. They'll tell you they're out for themselves.
I don't point fingers at the attitude. Me first makes the best kind of career sense. Hitting fifty home runs a year, or scoring fifty goals, will get you into the Hall of Fame even if your team stays in last place. Letting the ball or the other guy get by you on a regular basis will get you fired. (Some actors lift every scene they are even, even if the play or movie is a turkey. These are the actors who will get phone calls from their agents.)
All right, so this is not a giant insight. But I was interested to learn how far back me first goes. I was in the car with my son Ed the other day, driving home from his soccer game. (Quick sidebar here. What a fine thing to watch your kids play organized sports. Especially small-potatoes organized sports -- house leagues, intermurals, that kind of thing. The couple of hours on the sidelines chatting with the other parents while the little folks scoot up and down the field or the ice is, well, stolen time. Fire from heaven. Savour it, even if you are behind on a deadline - say - and should be writing. On the ride home you talk about the game, but also about music and friends and ice cream. The whole experience is intimate, warm, precious. ) Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Back to Ed. His team is not very good, and they lost the game, as they tend to do. But he was pleased with himself, and his good mood filled the car, kind of like the familiar smell of his soccer socks (I will not wax romantic here). I congratulated him on his performance, but, Would you rather win? I asked. He frowned and said, Yeah. (Parents -- what idiots). Would you rather win, even though you yourself played badly? I asked. He blinked, considered, shook his head. How come? We were listening to a mix CD Thea made for the car last summer, and Queen's "Good Old Fashioned Loverboy" came on. He turned it up. How come? I asked again. Are you worried about letting the team down? Or letting (my voice went deep and meaningful here -- radio DJ or guidance counsellor) yourself down?
Ed laughed. I just don't like to screw up, he said, and we sang the next verse along with the band.