Huddle's Mindless Moments - 2
Thu, 2 Oct 2008 12:41:16 -0800
Yeah, I know, it’s October and Ironman is now less than two weeks away but, from what I understand, we’re on the brink of another Great Depression. Shouldn’t that concern us a little more than another triathlon? Should we be running down to the bank, withdrawing all of our money, putting it in mason jars to be buried in the backyard with dog bones and passed pets from our past. Say that 5-times fast: passed pets from our past, passed pets from our past, passed pets from our past, passed pets from our past, passed pets from our past. Yes, I digress but you can’t tell me that wasn’t a challenge.
Like many, I’ve been glued to the news regarding this crisis – in between Governor Palin impersonations by Tina Fey and trying to think up a new addition to the Underpants Run calisthenics routine. I’ve talked to friends who are on the front lines of the financial crisis both recently and as much as a year ago and it seems we knew this was coming. By “we” I mean people who are much smarter than you and I who might actually do something about it – but didn’t and/or, somehow, couldn’t. It seems like the machinery that was propelling us toward this moment was largely unstoppable - something about computer programs, tech weenies, and derivatives - oh yes, and greed.
I keep reading that greed was part or most of the reason for the financial system’s current need for a bailout, rescue plan, or whatever it’s called. I don’t know. It sure seems like “stupidity” was easily as much as a reason as “greed”. Stupidity, however, means that we aren’t quite as clever as we thought. We’re just, well, greedy. The fact that greed is one of the seven deadly sins also means that maybe there’s something much more sinister lying underneath it all which allows everyone to look around pointing their fingers at something or someone else – especially the CEO’s who got a big bailout check as they left their posts. Greedy. Who, us?
This got me thinking about triathletes and human nature. I certainly don’t know why we’re on the brink of a financial catastrophe other than what I read in the media but there’s something to this greed thing. My wife and I have been discussing for the past 6-months or so with regard to athletes but I’m sure there’s a version of it in every walk of life.
My first experience of athletic greed was way back in 1985 when I decided I wanted to do this thing called the Ironman. Actually it was prior to that when I was pursuing running to the exclusion of everything else but I remember the Ironman experience more lucidly. I’d seen a 1/8-page ad in Sports Illustrated in the early ‘80’s (yes, SI) and, since my introduction to the sport, thought “I want to do that.” “Want” should have been my first clue. In my fourth season of triathlon, I decided I was going to Kona to do the Ironman.
The combination of being 22-years old and in the middle of the rabid phase of the sport, I couldn’t see the potential problems that doing a 130-mile ride in Phoenix in July would pose by the time September rolled around. Well, by the end of August, school was starting again and I found myself lacking motivation for anything to do with swimming and/or cycling and/or running.
Call it the dark ages of triathlon or the coach-less 80’s but I was like a dog that had fetched one too many balls and was reduced to a panting heap. I couldn’t fathom this feeling and had no idea why it manifested. I didn’t know it at the time but my athletic greed (known by its ,more common euphemism: motivation) had come home to roost. Ok, maybe it wasn’t greed as it’s classically defined but watching athletes deal with injuries and sport makes me realize that there’s certainly an element of greed in just about everything – including triathlon.
Maybe we’re just programmed this way as human beings. No? Ok, I’ll speak only for myself. Maybe I’m just programmed this way. Some examples:
- Wake up, have a cup of coffee. Wow, that feels better. I’ll bet another cup would make me feel even better. Wow, that does feel better. I’ll have a third cup and that will feel even better. Not so much.
- Have a beer with friends at the end of a long day. Wow, that feels better. I’ll be another beer would make me feel even better. Wow, that does feel better. I’ll have a third, fourth, and fifth beer and that will feel even better. Not so much.
- Did some training and did a triathlon. Went well and was really fun. If I do more training, I’ll do even better and have more fun. Wow, that did go better and was still really fun. If train like the pros in the magazines, I’ll do even better (maybe turn pro) and not just have fun but get paid to have fun. Not so much.
See what I mean?
Ok, you’re injured but you have a “big race” coming up in two weeks. First, why did you get injured? Were you a little greedy with your training when a little recovery and rest would have been better? Will the “big race” be there next year? Is there another “big race” 6-weeks from now? Would you like to preserve your health and ability to enjoy your life well into middle and, perhaps, even old age? No thanks, I’ll have my dessert right now, thank you very much.
Look, I’m not saying that I’m any better. I’ve experienced my share of athletic greed and certainly didn’t seem to be receptive to the lessons while caught up in the excitement and novelty during the years I was competing. Just one more long ride and I promise I’ll be better. Just one more crack (no pun intended) at Ironman and I’ll take a break. Just one more. Really.
I wonder, if he had to do it all over again, if Tiger would have rested and rehabbed his knee more than 8-weeks after that initial April 15th arthroscopic surgery. Wouldn’t there be another U.S. Open in ’09 let alone the remainder of the ’08 season? Like every other golf fan, I greedily loved watching the heroics he displayed at Torrey Pines back in June – even if it meant he’d be out of commission for a little while. Who’d argue that it wasn’t worth it? He’s Tiger. He’ll be back. Remember that study that found that a large percentage of athletes interviewed said that if they could take a pill that would guarantee they would win an Olympic gold medal or a World Series ring—but they’d die 5 years later—they’d do it? What if Tiger didn’t make it back? Was it worth it? Not for me.
So what’s the point? No point. Just an observation. There are plenty of victims of athletic greed before, during, and after just about every sporting event. I know of at least a half dozen going into this year’s Hawaii event and I’m sure there are many more.
In my endless greedy pursuit of fun and sport I had the pleasure of being introduced to the sport of paddle boarding a couple of years ago. Through this introduction I met a number of great people among which is a guy I’ll call Darryl. Darryl is older than most of us but better than most of us too. On his 60th birthday I asked Darryl what his secret was. He looked a little aggravated at me and said, “Is this a joke or are you asking a serious question.” I suddenly had a eureka moment (shouldn’t it be “an eureka moment – just doesn’t sound right) about my general personality and penchant for endless sarcasm and juvenile behavior. Mental note to self: mix in some adult conversation. I quickly adopted a more respectful manner and stressed that I was serious. He said, “workout every day.” I noted that he didn’t say “workout hard every day” and he also didn’t say “workout three times every day.”
I didn’t see Darryl the next three or four times I went paddling. Then I saw him at the pool one day. When I asked him where he’d been, he sagely said, “Paddling season is over. Now it’s swimming and surfing.” I don’t know why this hit me so hard but I wish I’d had the foresight to change it up over the years and get back to focusing on activities that I enjoyed for portions of the year instead of greedily trying to fit it all of them in all the time. No doubt about it, with longer, warmer days, summer is the perfect time for triathlon. Along those same lines, aren’t the winter months better for one activity? Maybe if you live in Canada. Me? I’m going to have three cups of coffee, play 27-holes of speed golf and go surfing – I can get a run in this afternoon.