I really enjoyed this piece by Mark Edmundson:
Do Sports Build Characters or Damage It?
I was having a discussion with my colleague on Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday.
Now I love boxing. The idea of restricting yourself, limiting yourself to what part of the body you can strike, and what part of your body you may use to strike your opponent makes everything so unnatural, forced and difficult. To succeed, you really have to every aspect of it into a science. Herego, the common name for it; the sweet science.
But boxing, my colleague said. You mean, the most ancient and brutal and inane sport we have ever devised?
Punching people in the face? It’s so unnecessary.
Well, he is right in a way.
And then I read Edmunson’ piece and it made me think some more.
Quoted from the article:
“Sports are many things, and one of those things is an imitation of heroic culture. They mimic the martial world; they fabricate the condition of war. (Boxing doesn’t fabricate war; it is war, and, to my mind, not a sport. As Joyce Carol Oates says, you play football, baseball, and basketball, but no one “plays” boxing.)”
I have been a sports fan all my life. I have tried very hard to be good at some of them. But I realise that while some people have trouble keeping thymos in check, or they might take out their frustrations on others, my personality is that I tend to internalise agitation and frustration. Sometimes it drives to me go home and practice by myself for six hours. But in the long term, it’s self-destructive.
I know part of the reason I turned to fighting games is my fear of disappointment. More specifically, disappointment of my team mates. A missed shot instantly makes me think about percentages. It makes me think about sublimating myself to the team ethic. But sometimes, you just need to shoot the damn ball.
I could never summon the ego, or lack of conscience to do that.
Maybe that is I hate Kobe Bryant so much. Perhaps he represents the ego extreme, the gunner extraordinaire, the extreme (and deluded) self-belief that I can be never have.
What have I gained from fighting games these last few years? Have I grown or matured in anyway? Or have I regressed in any way?
Why can’t I cross this river? – The Humbling River, Puscifer