My Life in Sports.

Posted: December 16, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty. 

My life in sports! Where to begin? “Begin at the beginning,” you marvelously faithful Turtles intone to yourselves in unison, despite all manner of post and even pre modern distractions. OK, sure. But not so fast. Don’t you see: there’s a rub here. For where exactly is the beginning? Who can say with absolute 100 % Cartesian certainty where the beginning is? And who would be willing to settle for less than 100% certainty ?

Where’s the beginning? That’s the question. Out of the great flow of life that constitutes my early existence on this great green globe I’d have to arbitrarily pluck out a moment and magically announce with hale and brimstone, sound and fury, joy and sorrow: here’s the beginning, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s start.

You see a question like where did my life in sports begin isn’tlike well, gosh I’ve got to turn the light off before I can fall asleep, or turn on the ignition so the car will run, or get a glass of water before I can drink it. No, the question concerning the beginning of my sports life is far more difficult to answer requiring probably hundreds and hundreds of hours to examine a million trillion neurological events which preceded a decision I must have made to involve myself in sports–or more likely a single sport, back in time’s unfathomable mists. And these thoughts about neurology, and my sports beginnings aren’t some arcane, mad, hare brained assertion of a confused person gone off the deep end of an extraordinarily deep cliff–say like those steep ten story stone cliffsyou see in pictures of the southern portion of the Arizona Grand Canyon.

Au contraire. This my dearest of Turtles is cutting edge, cusp of the wave, up to the minute PhD science. Hard. Straight. True. And your expectations–well, in fact, they’re examples ofsubjective, naive, vague, helter skelter, fantasy, goo goo type thinking. Pure infantile wish fulfillment with no more reality than a unicorn or a wish to pick up the phone and say a few words to Ulysses S. Grant, or Charles Dickens, or Marcel Proust.

Where was I? Oh yes: so I assume you’ll agree with me that deciding where exactly my life in sports began is a very real challenge for me and for you, too, who have far less data than do I.Moreover, in all candoor, I must confess that my difficulty in identifying the beginning of my sports life is truly formidable because in fact I have absolutely no memory at all of a first momentplaying sports or even of my first exposure watching sports being played either live or on the tube. Nothing vivid leaps into consciousness of my sitting on a couch, maybe chatting with Dad, and seeing the outlines of Wrigley Field with the Cubs battling the Reds, or the Giants, or the Cardinals, etc. Zilch. Zip. Zero.

I think I do have a vague memory–and I might well be making this up–of playing soccer in a school play ground when I was about 6 or Image7 years old. But it’s all very vague. What I remember more vividly is joining the South Chicago YMCA and deciding soon thereafter I should learn how to swim. By the way, that Y still stands on the same corner in did years ago in my youth, well before cell phones, smart phones, and computers could take pictures so they could instantly be yours without having to go to Walgreens or send them to the folks at Kodak.

Fairly quickly I did learn to swim and even joined the swimming team, but never became much of a swimmer. Water would get in my eyes, ears, nose, and throat, an experience I never could convince myself was of little consequence and that I should simply choose to ignore. Eventually–meaning I was about 10 or 11, I think–I tried out for little league and made the team, deciding I should become a catcher since not many kids wanted to play that position. For a while that worked out but, like with swimming, I became increasingly disenchanted with the unpleasantries that went along with playing catcher and decided playing little league ballwasn’t for me.

ImageOh!–and I also quit because for some reason I was lousy at the plate. Great arm but just couldn’t hit a baseball. Later I played 16 inch softball, especially during the summers at an overnight camp in Wisconsin, and discovered I couldn’t hit that huge thing either. I mean I could hit it, but very far it seldom traveled. Is I said, I did have a good arm, and did a creditable job playing third base and right field, yet my baseball career never took hold.

But at that same camp, Camp Interlocken, the great piece of sporting news for me consisted in discovering tennis and, truly with not the smallest, tiniest ounce of exaggeration, I must report it was love at first sight and, moreover, that love remains undiminished up to this very day. Exactly why this love should form and take flight I can’t explain. I’m simply glad that it did. I played fairly good tennis, but never got really good at it partly because of a few athletic deficiencies I was born with, and partly because I didn’t take the next step which was to involve myself in a reasonably serious program of tennis instruction. Tennis is a tough sport and to get to a really solid level of play taking lots of lessons is essential.

So, dear Turtles, I’ve provided here a very brief account of my life in sports–and actually I just realized I failed to tell you about my days and nights playing basketball, a topic I’ll have to take up on another occasion. Instead of talking about basketball, I’ll conclude on an entirely different note and state very simply that my life in sports didn’t end when, save for tennis, I stopped playing sports. For what I discovered about sports is that the main reason to take up sports isn’t to play it, but to talk about it. Like the famous tree in the forest which makes no sound when it falls if no one is there to notice it, so the existence of sports depends entirely on having anaudience which chooses to watch whatever game is being played and, when the game is over, get to the really serious business of discussing it endlessly, whether on line, or in a sports bar, or in your TV room, or your kitchen, or car, or at work by the proverbial water cooler.

Indeed I’m certain–absolutely certain with 100% Cartesian certitude—that without an audience to watch and discuss our sporting life, sports would lose its sponsors, and see itself slowly stop attracting people to play its games, and little by little atrophy, and finally die. For as Aristotle told us 2,500 years ago by the wine dark sea, we human beings are endowed with reason and like nothing better talking and discussing and debating and learningabout all the things they do as well as the workings of the wider world of which they’re a part.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Dave P. says:

    Dr. Stern: Really interesting insight into your history! Thanks…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s