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Ponder me this…

by on May 24th, 2006
Ponder me this…

Thinking can be such a struggle sometimes. My sophisticated teenage children will tell you without much prompting that I apparently gave up this battle some time ago.

In our amphetamine paced world, where speed usually trumps sense, our much stressed brains need relief. Its synapses harness the power of the peerless microprocessor – reasoning, planning, plotting, scheming, prioritizing, directing, initiating – the strain of thinking permeates every waking moment. For many, the brain never rests as it subliminally percolates through less than restful nights.

A change is as good as a rest. Some harried, multi-tasking supermen and superwomen turn their brains off, one martini at a time. I do not begrudge them the indulgence – I ponder instead.

Pondering is escapism at the highest level.

Pondering is not daydreaming of the silly what ifs of lottery wins or a spot on American Idol. To ponder is to deliberately disengage from deadlines and schedules for a few moments and move into space. The questions there are as captivating as they are insolvable, an infinite series of Rubik’s cubes to tantalize but never strain. It is transportation from the dreck of the commonplace to a day spa for the mind.

Questions about sports, great and small, are my favourites. I rarely ponder the same question twice.

I will often stage a mock self-interview to fully engage myself in what ever issues drift into my consciousness. On one side of the question, I am the smooth and urbane interlocutor, like those dulcet voiced BBC hosts who radiate sophistication. I put the questions quite artfully. On the other side, I am the consummate and clever sports authority. My answers are street smart and edgy. I have an opinion on everything.

When I ponder, one of us is always right – Bryan the BBC host and Mr. Davies the sports authority.

Mr. Davies, Lance Armstrong was the most physically gifted cyclist in the history of the sport. Why did he apparently take the hormone EPO to illegally boost his ability to consume oxygen?

“They all were doing it! Why pick on Lance? Quite a world we have here, Bryan. Why do Fortune 500 companies spy on their corporate rivals and steal their industrial designs? Why are their alley cat morals permitted, even praised, in the name of profit? Lance Armstrong apparently took a naturally occurring hormone that generates the same benefits as high altitude training, and Lance gets roasted. I have a Live Strong bracelet and I wear it with pride.”

But Mr. Davies, is not EPO a banned substance?

“Bryan, I do not believe in cheating. Nor does an end justify its means. It’s the hypocrisy of it all that fries me. Why do we pick and choose our drug cheats in sport? Remember Ben Johnson? 1988 Olympic sprinter and world record holder who was disgraced after a positive steroid test. Fast forward – it is revealed in the 1990s that the old East German teams systemically administered steroids; the Americans suppressed various positive drug tests involving some of their national heroes. No one has moved to take away their medals. Lance Armstrong is today’s target, there shall be another tomorrow.

My bottom line? In sports and in the world beyond, we have few rules any more. Rules have morphed into guidelines. The decision to adhere to or to breach any standard of behavior is seemingly always capable of justification. Ours is a post moral age, Bryan. Everything can be rationalized after the fact and society at large seems to expect it.”

On the topic of sports cheats, Mr. Davies – why did Juventus, the esteemed Italian soccer power, apparently engage in match fixing?

“There are two expressions that capture the Juventus situation, Bryan. The first is the old nugget of stock market trading – pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. The second comes from Coco Chanel – you can never be too rich, or too thin. The Juventus management appears to have focused on the rich part.

If the wiretap transcripts I have read in the press are even close to the mark, Juventus appear to have engaged in this match fixing because like any other criminal they thought that they could get away with it. Ask the Enron Mafioso – this Juventus business will only get worse.”

Mr. Davies, why are American baseball fans apparently unwilling to accord Barry Bonds any significant credit for his matching of the Babe Ruth home run mark? Is it about race?

“Barry Bonds would be the same arrogant and condescending maroon if he were white. Bryan, I applaud greatness where ever I see it, but Bonds makes himself a sportsman whom it almost impossible to admire. His public demeanor is that of a guy who is mid way through a colonoscopy minus the anesthetic. Is he Mother Teresa? Has he contributed to the eradication of AIDS or breast cancer? I have no idea because Barry Bonds makes sure that he comes across as a complete and utter jerk. Bonds would be the poster boy for my private fantasy campaign to never deify an athlete again.”

Why is teenage golfer Michele Wie playing in a series of men’s professional tournaments? Do you believe Wie is promoting women’s golf?

“Bryan, this is all about promoting Michele Wie. I believe that Wie is actually setting back women’s golf to its Stone Age.

I consider myself a feminist. I have coached women’s basketball for over 20 years. Until the early 1970s there were no meaningful organized university sports for women in North America. Our daughter is playing university basketball today at her American small college because society embraced the notion that women’s sports should be valued on its own terms, not through comparisons with men.

Wie will attempt to qualify in men’s tournaments that she will never win (I said never because every man in the event will hit the ball 30 yards further than Wie on average). How does this assist anyone except Wie and her celebrity profile?

Wie brings to mind the Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser playing in a second level Finnish men’s league for a season. What did that prove? That Wickenheiser, a great hockey talent, could compete with male hockey players? No – it proved that Wickenheiser could compete with a bunch of third rate semi professional male hockey players.

What is wrong with being a great female athlete? Embrace who you are! Be proud of what you can do!”

Mr. Davies, a final question, will you return to Lafayette, Louisiana to relive your greatest sporting triumph, your victory in the World Heavyweight Running Championship in 1992, one of the most esoteric titles in sport?

“My glib self assurance deserts me, Bryan. Some questions invite a deeper pondering than others, I suppose. I have written of that wonderful and destructive time in scattered snippets that I never had the courage to organize into something coherent. I now think of Robert Scott, the Antarctic explorer as he prepared to die on the ice in 1912, ‘These rough notes and my dead body must tell the tale.’ And tell it I will…”

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About the Author: Bryan Davies is a writer and conflict resolution expert based in Whitby, Ontario. His company, ZASwonderwords, reflects his experience as a lawyer and veteran basketball coach, and provides a comprehensive range of multi-media consulting services centered upon effective communication. Bryan's personal portfolio includes hundreds of articles concerning sport and business. Bryan recently served as a principal author for the publication, The World of Sport Science (Thomson Gale, 2006), and serves as a regular contributing advisor to Lerner & Lerner, Academic Editing and Publishing, and LernerMedia.

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