Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One thing that even a non-sports fan can learn from sports

I've rarely been accused of being a sports fan and never been accused of being "athletic," despite my swimmer's build.

Wah, wah!

I attend one Bombers game a year (because I love having a beer outside on a sunny, Sunday afternoon), one Moose game (because the fights are pretty great) and only really watch the World Cup (because there are no commercials and I can commit to one sporting event every four years).

Apart from that, all I know is that hockey players "gotta get into da corners" and that football "is a game of inches."

Still, could it be that even I, a non-sports fan, can learn something from sports?

Crosby v. Chomsky

When my sports-fanatic friend flies to Pittsburgh for the Stanley Cup, gets his picture taken with Sidney Crosby, and updates his PlayStation to reflect real-life hockey trades, I can only shake my head and pat myself on the back for being so clearly superior (Ha!).

I like to pester him with questions like these:
  • You do realize that no one who plays for the Phoenix Coyotes is from Phoenix, right?
  • You know you're a broke guy cheering for a game played by millionaires, right?
  • You know the outcome doesn't matter tomorrow, right?
  • You know that if you spent an equal amount of time on making the world a better place, the world might actually be a better place, right?
Very elitist and unoriginal of me, I know. Like a true egghead, everything I learned about sports, I learned from Noam Chomsky:

Pretty harsh, eh?

Criticizing sports on this level would make anyone sound like a Debbie Downer - especially when everyone around you follows and loves them. And is following sports any different than, say, attending a Star Trek convention dressed up like a Vulcan?

In both cases, you're having good, clean, fun and blowing off steam by making life a little more exciting than it would be without the distraction, though you could argue that the Star Trek convention only wastes a day and a devotion to sports wastes a lifetime.

Compare being a regular sports viewer to being a video game addict, however, and...hmmm.

De-fense, de-fense

There is one aspect of sports I like and - shudder - even find myself admiring: "discipline." It might just be another way to say "irrational attitudes of submission to authority," but it does comes in handy in life if you want to earn a living.

I've always appreciated the discipline it takes to be a professional athlete earning millions of dollars, yet keeping it real enough to accept that you don't have all the answers and the coach does.

There's something to be said for the ability to "shut up and listen" - something I'm really bad at doing myself - and taking constructive criticism without going ballistic at the person giving it to you.

In fact, when we visited Critical Mass ad agency in Chicago this year, the good people there broke down the characteristics of the people they're interested in hiring. Number one: "the ability to take criticism" - probably because it seems to be in shorter supply every year.

That means knowing what you don't know, being open to filling the gaps when someone tells you something, and sucking it up, even when you know you're right. It beats, "My dad's a lawyer with a Harvard degree, and he's going to sue you. Nyeah, nyeah!"

One of the bits of advice we give our students before they go out on a work placement is, "Don't just say, "Yeah, yeah" when someone explains something. Actually listen to what they have to say, because if you don't, pretty soon they'll stop telling you anything."

The next time someone tries to teach me something I think I already know, I'll close my eyes, paste a smile on my face, and think of the words of Belle and Sebastian (a band that has clearly never played sports or even been outdoors): "The stars of track and field are beautiful people!"

Juicebox boy out!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a sports fan either, though, like you, I watch the World Cup every four years.

    I've never thought about the amount of discipline athletes have, and their ability to "shut up and listen". I figure the millions of dollars they make allows them to handle the coach's criticism with a smile. It's definitely an admirable thing to have in the working world.


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