Everyone knows that Andre Agassi hates tennis, and Keith Foulke hates baseball. And I hate both baseball and tennis. Now, the irony is I’m extremely talented tennis player. In a way, I kind of feel like Andre. Really really ridiculously good (looking) at tennis, but with no interest what-so-ever in the sport. Maybe I could get into it if people threw buckets of money at me. Maybe. But I’m no Scrooge McDuck. I can’t even swim in water, let alone buckets of money. And seeing as I already have all of the things I need in life, adding hitting sessions with famous good looking country club people and collared shirts would be something akin to torture.
So I almost never play tennis. And I definitely don’t play baseball. I’ll skip the Keith Foulke analogy I had planned because I’m guessing we’re far enough removed from the last Red Sox world series win to have forgotten about him entirely. He wasn’t integral to the point of this post anyway. Which is:
Why DO people insist on doing things that they’re good at rather than things that they love to do?
Because we’re competitive. Because we’re just animals. And no pack animal likes to be caught bringing up the rear. Because victory is glorious and defeat is both shameful and motivational. Because these are the base human emotions from which all sporting events were created. A sport where everybody wins is nothing more than a nice game. And who wants to play nice?
In cycling there’s a phenomena called ‘half-wheeling’ whereby someone who is your equal or perhaps a little faster rides up along side you and starts to talk constitutional law. Obviously they know you love constitutional law and they expect you’ll have a lot to say in return. So they start to talk and talk all the while riding slightly faster and faster. Now you don’t want to be rude, so you try to hold up your end of the conversation and suddenly you’re sucking wind and can barely utter the words “torte reform” before blacking out and falling right of your bike. You lost the race and you lost the conversation. This is a two part victory that your cycling friend will hold over you forever, once you are released from intensive care and are no longer taking meals through a straw.
Runners do it to each other all the time too. I’m not running’s biggest fan, but I am pretty fast, so I have to find other things to enjoy. For instance, I enjoy taking my friend Trevor out on longer than advertised runs while going faster than advertised paces. Because, as I see it, Trevor (a former D-I All American XC star) has slipped a little and started to let himself go. The abuse will be good for him. And he knows this too, which is why he comes along in the first place. His asthmatic wheezing up Jericho Street validates my superiority, and affirms for him that since he didn’t fall off TOO much he’s still within range of getting back in top shape.
So, why do we all willingly endure the abuse? When young people will always be faster than us? When large people will always be stronger? When tall people will always be… well, you know what I mean. For every one thing you’re good at, there’s about 10 things any Joe Schmo on the street can do better than you (plumbing, for instance).
I say, latch on to that one thing. Learn to love it. Don’t let it get you down, make you unhappy, make you covet things other people have that can never be yours. And if someone decides to drop a million bucks in your lap to do it, keep your mouth shut about how boring it is to play 168 baseball games a year. It’s ruining the memory of that one perfect inning I pitched back in the Dark Ages wishing someday I could be you.