Since the Lance confessional I’ve been hearing it. The World Cup match-fixing scandal turned up the volume. And now, with the Pistorius arrest, it’s grown from a whisper to a snarl. And it’s really starting to piss me off.
What am I on about? I’m fired up about this weak, hand-wringing counter narrative that’s floating through the news-o-sphere that goes like this: We put athletes on a pedestal and collectively agree that they represent the best of the human spirit because they can ride a bike well, kick a soccer ball with the precision of a marksman, or run like mad. But the truth is, the popular sports narrative is hollow. These people aren’t better than you and me; they’re actually mediocre souls who learn how to do one thing very well. And for their efforts they should not be held up as examples. Do not fall into the dire trap of hero worship for athletes, the new screed goes, because they actually aren’t special. They are, in fact, inferior to you and me.
This is the line they’re pushing these days. To this, I say, Bullshit.
Athletes get in the gate. They test themselves. They put it all on the line week after week. How many non-athletes can say that? Great athletes step up and throw down. They dare to fail, over and over and over again. They don’t play it safe. They do not live lives of quiet desperation. They call for the ball with ten seconds on the clock. They take a rip at the 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. They ride away from the pack and tackle the mountain by themselves. And for their courage, their willingness to be defeated, mocked and laughed at, they should be regarded as the best of us. For it is only with this fearless spirit that life is fully lived, only with this willingness to push past limits that we move forward as a species.
This is why I founded RallyMe. We think its worth helping athletes work through one of their toughest challenges: finding the dough to keep on digging deep. It’s why we get up every morning and hustle to work. We feel lucky to be in the service of athletes, and not because we think they are perfect. They’re complicated, and flawed, and human, just like the rest of us. And they need help just like the rest of us. Which is why this new counter narrative burns my ass. To say that athletes should NOT be looked up to, to say that they are NOT the embodiment of passion, the triumph of discipline and fortitude, is to give victory to the mediocre.
Which brings me to the nabobs in the nattering class, those who gleefully slash at the doers, the darers. How many of them have ever stepped into the ring? Taken the snap with the blitz coming? Pre-jumped the icy knoll at 90? Driven hard to the front of the net for an ugly rebound?
It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize. Get in the game and get your ass kicked nine out of ten times, but have the gumption to keep coming back for more, and then tell me your flaccid fable.