Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Freezing and Sweltering

If I haven't written on this subject before, I should have. What subject is that? Why, the subject of athletes as people. The truth is that, on the whole, they are not better people than regular folks who are famous for nothing at all. Some, I grant, have shown themselves to be exemplary over a long time. This does not always get much recognition. And why should it? Don't athletes, after all, have at least the same obligation to give back time and energy to the societies in which they prosper so handsomely?
On the other hand, most of us could name athletes who's personal lives leave much to be desired. Lives of excess, overindulgence, narcissism - they can all be found in jockdom, and when they are, the story gets plenty of play to us fly-over people. We, in turn, might gloat a little.
Still, there are things the athletes do that leave us amazed. Just in the past week, we've seen athletes at their best when called on to perform under brutal conditions.
A good part of the country was locked in a cold snap last weekend. We're talking single digit temps with accompanying winds. Oy! Not for nothing did Green Bay Wisconsin get associated with the slightly dramatic term "frozen tundra". But a team from San Francisco had to go there and play, and they won. Foxboro, Mass. is no winter paradise, either, but it's home to the New England Patriots, and Denver is known to be cold, owing to its lofty altitude. The grass on these fields hasn't grown for months. Even the Superbowl is being played in New York, hardly immune from cold and snow. Let's be truthful. The NFL players are well-paid, but what they do isn't easy. If more people could do it, they would, and for less.
On the other side of the world, the situation is completely the reverse. The world's best tennis players, men and women, gather to play the Australian Open in Melbourne, where it's the worst part of summer. Ever tried to play when it's over 100 degrees? As someone who has played under some bad conditions, I can hardly think of anything being worse. The players have to play every point, usually in bright sunlight where they catch waves of heat from both above their heads and under their feet.  These well-trained, fit professionals sometimes have to fight to keep going. A couple have feinted, thrown up, gotten dizzy or just staggered off the court. It's even hard for the ball boys and linesmen, who don't have to move at all, though they are stuck in the sun until its either blocked by a cloud or sinks out of sight. Again, it's a good living, at least when you're still winning, but easy? Ah, no.
I'm prepared to believe that many people are underpaid for doing work that may be mundane, but must nevertheless be done. Let's add one item, however, to our list of things to be thankful for. When we make mistakes, it's not likely to be written about in the papers. And we, unlike those often dislikable athletes, don't have to risk our health just making sure that the crowd is satisfied that we're not just taking up space lounging in McMansions, cashing checks that are WAY too large. Living  lives of anonymity has some advantages.   


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