I was talking to someone earlier *cough* whomayormaynothavebeenpaidbymyparentstotalktome *cough* about moments and people who inhabit them, which inevitably led to thoughts and conversation about sports. I’m going to attempt to circumvent cliches about athletes thriving in the moment while aiming at a similar target, and if I happen to stumble on one of those cliches or mention something that was revelatory to me that’s been documented by ≥ 10 people already, well then great. The epiphany is mine. Indulge me. I have to believe you get more out of arriving at these things by yourself anyway, regardless of how long it takes you to get there. This pertains mostly to people who observe sports (on a debatable Sabbath) and dabble in them recreationally, as opposed to those who have run and hurdled and passed and caught their way to a fan-tasmic 9-to-5.
While driving home I remembered some tweets that were twat and then re-twat last weekend about college football, tweets certainly meant to be humorous/clever/socially aware commentary on the common man’s Saturday tweet topics. One bearded guy’s tweet that got some quality circulation was “I hope my university’s football team wins today.” Well, I do to-…oh wait. I understand what you’re doing there, Craft Beard.
Craft Beard’s comment helped to surface in my memory some other hip, snarky social networking comments about sports from my browsing past. People have pretty frequently parodied or statused displeasure about sports chatter and the games themselves, almost as often as the War Eagling, Roll Tiding majority support their favorite teams. If you find sports boring, then I can empathize with you, as long as you aren’t devoting your time to ruining them for the people who enjoy them. The reason these others — the ironically vocal opponents of sports — cannot and may never see their merit, is because sports are momentary occurrences they’re trying to highlight as ultimately meaningless by defining them in the nomenclature of chronological time. They’re pointing out that sports aren’t poetry or art or music or sculpture. Which they aren’t. Those are timeless activities of lasting value. Sporting events are ephemeral activities of momentary value. Your mind is forced to remain in the moment while participating, constantly trying to overcome, to counter, to complete the task at hand. And the rewards for your struggle aren’t necessarily longterm, but rather short term fulfillment. Which is all dumb and ignorantly lucid, what with Hipsterdom being a nebulous world of future and past concerns: what will be considered cool: when these things will be cool no longer: what relics of the past can be worn or collected for campy nostalgia: discovering what the next great band will be before someone else discovers it.
If you place sports on this tiresome timeline, then of course they become insignificant. You win one year. Next year it’s immediately nullified. Irrelevant. I spent an entire football season attempting to ruin mine and my roommate’s worldview in this fashion. And when thinking this way, sports really did suck. They were black holes, and all the poor schmucks who viewed them in this fashion (re: myself) were gravity-abiding fools, getting sucked into their own creations. But that’s not the logical way to approach sports.
Auburn isn’t a very talented football team this year. However, last year’s national championship season provided me with some of the greatest singular moments I’ve experienced in passive entertainment (moments different from the instances in which I feel a deep connection with a writer’s sentence or a musician’s harmony; moments not to be defined in the terms of artistic criticism as “better than” or “less meaningful”). Athletes probably don’t think — while celebrating a championship — that “hey, I’m celebrating this thing that is really enjoyable right now but won’t mean much in a few months or possibly even next week.” They just indulge their immediate emotions. Athletes tend to have a different type of mind, possibly simpler — although not in a bad way, as simplicity is often an advantage — that allows them to complete lots of momentary tasks with total enthusiasm, without thinking about longterm (in)significance. This may be why so many of them are religious. They just kind of defer all that What about my future and past? static to God, so they don’t have to stress over it and can focus on the task at or departing or approaching hand. Could also be why they thank him so much. I’d be equally grateful if he could do the same for me.
Tom Wolfe mentioned something about life being one giant continuation of the Now, incorporating Past and Future into that continuation. I sometimes wonder if Now is a body like Robert Pirsig’s Quality that governs the Past and Future, as Quality governs Objectivity and Subjectivity. Too many holy trinities to think about. Too much literary namedropping and not enough elucidation to avoid looking pedantic.
I mostly avoided recreational sports for two years of my young adult life, based on the rationalization that I couldn’t extract anything from them that would contribute to my longterm goals, because I’m obviously not going to become a professional athlete or receive a college scholarship after already earning a bachelor’s degree. I assumed I should always be doing something creatively productive. There just wasn’t enough time.
But time itself is something that gets misconstrued, and we should reconsider the language we use to confine it (speaking mostly to myself here). If you’re worried about the insignificance of one hour out of an indeterminate amount of hours in your lifetime, then No. You absolutely should not play a sport. You haven’t developed the correct frame of mind to enjoy it.
I’m not going to be great at anything by the time I’m 25. Nor will I be great at age 30. Or ever, maybe. Why am I so obsessed with achieving greatness at an early age? Maybe I panic too easily about getting a late start on the process. Maybe I’ve chosen the wrong idols in professional athletes, because they achieve greatness early, consistently. I’ve been using athletic standards to measure creative endeavors, basically the inverse of what I’ve been pontificating about.
Daydream about yourself becoming great and spend your free time criticizing other people who are considered great at something, and you’re left with no time for personal achievement. That’s why hipsters represent some kind of confusing cultural stasis and athletes represent recurrent, spontaneous triumph, almost regenerative in its nature. Are athletes more Eastern and Zen-like than Western bohemia? Probably. And that must produce a bitterness on those vintage taste buds that’s impossible to swallow. The bitterness of an ice-cold PBR.
I hope my university’s football team wins today.
I really do. And I’ll enjoy all of the momentary emotional responses that come with the action while avoiding thinking about any longterm insignificance.