09 March 2013

Thoughtless Commuters The Overweight and Compelling Sports Stories

Commute home on BART the other day I notice a guy standing next to me who looked to be about 90 years old. His cane barely keeps him from toppling over into a heap. No one was offering Methuselah a seat. The reasoning must have been that he's going to die pretty soon anyway so what's the point. Save the comfort of sitting for those young and healthy enough to enjoy it. I've seen pregnant women left to stand too. Why give a seat to someone who might be going into labor any minute? It would be that much harder to get her off the train and to the hospital from a sitting position. You could be a one-legged pregnant octogenarian and not be given a seat. Then again I see some people demand the seats by the door that are reserved for the old infirm and expecting. They've every right too. Recently however I saw a woman demand a seat from someone who looked younger than her. She was neither in a family way nor disabled. She was however fat. So because you're fat you can demand a seat? I'd have been like: "hell no I'm not giving up my seat to you just because you eat donuts by the box and drink coke by the liter." But that's me. I am not awash with sympathy for the obese especially when I see them coming out of ice cream shops or ordering a danish with their coffee. Should I have to make accommodations for smokers or drunks? I've been both and my message to addicts including those whose drug of choice is pastry: get some fucking help. There's plenty of it. I'm sorry you have an addiction I know what its like but this one's on you. No one gets clean or slender or off cigarettes unless they want to and no one is living in addiction for very long who doesn't know and hasn't thought about getting out.

It is our foibles and weaknesses and flaws and defects and mistakes and accidents that make us such compelling viewing. Perfection is boring. Give me stories of defeat and loss and tragedy and fatal error and you're giving me something to reflect on to learn from to be inspired by. My hero is Muhammad Ali. It would have been nice if he'd retired from boxing several losses before he did and never suffered from Parkinson's Syndrome but one has to admit that his story has taken on the shadings of Greek Tragedy as a consequence. Also that first loss to Frazier along with being exiled from boxing set Ali up for his greatest triumph -- reclaiming the heavyweight crown not once but twice. There was an other world quality to Ali's string of victories his beauty his poetry his politics. But ultimately he proved mortal.

I never much cared for Lance Armstrong. There was far too much perfection in his ceaseless winning. (Besides it was just riding a damn bicycle.) I sensed something amiss about him and was not at all surprised when it all come tumbling down and he was exposed as a lying cheat. Suddenly I was interested in him. Now instead of not giving a damn I actually could work some really strong animus. His story was far more interesting.

John Wooden was a much admired college basketball coach who racked up a string of national titles several earned by unbeaten teams. He and his team generally carried themselves with class and there was not a whiff of scandal around his UCLA programs. Yawn. Coaches and players can learn a lot from the late great Wizard of Westwood but what a snooze of a story.

In sports it is defeat that defines character. I have reveled in my favorite baseball team's (SF Giants) two World Series titles these past three seasons. But I am lucky to have suffered from so many near misses from the time I was a wee child through adulthood. Those crushing defeats merely strengthened my love for the team and made their first two titles of my lifetime so much sweeter.

Without agony ecstasy has little meaning. There are some who toss their team aside after bitter disappointment or an embarrassing pratfall. I've had two teams I love suffer shocking defeats recently. First of all you get used to it and can and should remind yourself that yes it is in fact only a game. (It is amazing for how many years I refused to accept that it was not just a game and would have an entire weekend ruined by a team's loss.) But also those losses make the wins meaningful and precious.
Sports are cruel if you measure success only in terms of championships. Locally the 49ers pro football team reached the conference title game last season and the Super Bowl this one. In both instances they lost and in excruciating fashion that brought out an endless cacophony of could haves should haves would haves. But goodness they had great seasons in both instances -- particularly given a long string of bad ones that preceded. It seemed impossible for locals to appreciate their accomplishments instead boo hooing the final loss. Perspective is everything and is often missing in the what have you done for me lately mindset of sports fans.

Okay my writing is spent for now. Can't think of a clever way to wrap this up so I reckon maybe I should just stop....


Colt said...

My favorite great-uncle once told me a story about when he was in Japan immediately following VJ Day. A group of elderly women entered his train and my uncle and his GI buddies stood to offer them their seats.

One soldier in the group kept his seat forcing one of the elderly women to stand. My uncle reached down and grabbed the lout by his tie and pulled him to his feet. My uncle then turned smiled and directed the women to take her seat. She smiled and offered a multitude of bows in gratitude. This has always served as a reminder to me of how to be, especially when I think that not a few weeks earlier these to countries and been in the midst of war.

Richard Hourula said...

Nice story, Colt. Thanks for sharing.