Thursday, August 23, 2007

"It's never too late to arrive DOA at the ER!"

Apropos of yesterday's post about football (which I hate to belabor or even mention, as it garnered the fewest hits of any SHAMblog item so far in 2007), there's a nice story in my local paper today: a wire-service feature on a 59-year-old who's returning to college to use up his last remaining year of football eligibility. Seems ol' Mike Flynt has the year left because he got hisself booted off the team at Sul Ross State (Texas, Division III) before his senior year in 1971*. Flynt has now survived training camp—literally and figuratively—and made the squad. It's the fulfillment of a 37-year dream, for him.

Now, as noted, this is a very nice story. A story that has the makings of one of those heartwarming, feel-good, against-the-odds sports flicks like Hoosiers or Radio or, better still, Rudy, which is currently being screened for preseason college football teams all over America as a shining example of "motivation" and "perseverance." (Depending on what becomes of Flynt as the season progresses, his saga, too, may very well be committed to film one day. I'm sure the Hollywood agenting machine has seen the wire story, and inquiries are being made as we speak.) So it's "inspirational" in that sense, I agree.

But is it inspirational in the sense that it "shows other 59-year-olds that you too can go back and play college football, if you set your mind to it!"?**

Are you smokin' something? The average 59-year-old trying to recapture one final year of his youth by playing college football would almost surely end up in a wheel chair at best, a casket at worst. Hell, for all we know, this guy may end up that way. And Flynt is, by no means, "your average 59-year-old." He's in fabulous shape, still running the 40 in 5 flat, according to the piece, and a weight-lifting/conditioning dynamo. (Flynt happens to be a professional strength and conditioning coach, and has spent recent years selling his own "Powerbase" training system to colleges and the U.S. military.) Overall, then, he is physically much, much younger than his AARP card—which he does indeed carry—would suggest.

My point, again, is that things like motivation and perseverance do not exist in a vacuum. Absent the proper context—i.e. without such vital contributing factors as aptitude/skill, education, preparation, physical fitness, etc.—a PMA by itself means little, and is a dubious predictor (if any predictor at all) of someone's odds of success. You cannot take the exception—a guy like Flynt—and use him in arguing for the validity of your "empowering" rule.

Nonetheless, in my mind's eye, already I can see Mike Flynt sitting there sharing his story with Oprah at her smiling, wide-eyed best. "I'm going to begin a speaking tour," he tells her, "as soon as I regain the feeling in my legs...."

* That same year, a few thousand miles northeast, yours truly was getting ready for his final season of football, albeit at sissified Brooklyn College.
** Which is how I'm sure it's going to be spun in media: maybe not with that degree of specificity, but with some notion of "it's never too late to go for your dreams!"


a/good/lysstener said...

I read the article you linked and I agree with him though, that age can be a state of mind. I know some very young people (my age, if that's still very young!) who seem much older and set in their ways, and I know much older people who seem very young at heart. Age to me does not matter as much as outlook. I hear what you're saying about how he's not the average 59 year old, but in this case maybe it's his PMA that has kept him in such shape all these years in the first place. So it could be another one of those chicken or the egg scenarios you refer to from time to time.

Mary Anne said...

I bet he spends the season on the bench. Sounds like the college just wants the publicity and an Oprah moment.

Steve Salerno said...

Why, Mary Anne. Such cynicism. I for one am shocked. ;)

Mary Anne said...

This article bothered me on a few levels. First, it showed the 59 year old is pretty selfish. The chances of him getting hurt IF he should play are high. There are so many football players who are perminantly disabled. If he was going for an easier sport, I would say "go for it." Second, what good does this do? He has no chance of playing on a professional level, which would be the only legitimate reason to do it. If it is just love of the game, than why not get other men his age into fitness and football? Finally, it sounds like this guy's present is not as good to him as his past. I think that is a sorry lesson to teach people at his age. As far as age being a state of mind. If you are thinking like a 20 year old in a 59 year old's body, you missed out on life.

Steve Salerno said...

Yanno, Mary Anne, it's not often that I find myself tempted to side with those who sing the unending chorus of "follow your dreams"--but I read your latest comment several times, and especially in the context of your first comment (re the "Oprah moment"), well, now I think maybe you're being a bit hard on the guy. While he should not be viewed as an archetype for "the possibilities of senior living" (which was the whole point of the post I wrote) and should not become a poster boy for some kind of Peter Pan view of life (which I think was the main point of your longer comment), I do think that, as a single individual of (apparently) unusual capabilities, he IS entitled to live his own life in his own way, as long as it works for him (and those around him, which I guess is another dimension to this). And if it works for him, I'm not sure that it's up to any of us on the outside to impugn his motives or goals. I also wonder why you would suspect (and attack) his desire to play football at the highest (i.e. most challenging) level that he can still play it. That sort of logic would suggest that once people reach a certain age, they should stop striving to compete; they should just, well, give in and give up.

I truly hope that nothing I've said in this blog would've been construed as an argument for giving up; for mediocrity.

If this particular man, at six decades, is still able to hold his own with "kids" 40 years his junior, then more power to him and God bless. My concern about this whole affair is more along the lines of using Flynt as a role model or an example of how "anything is possible!" No, anything is NOT possible--for the vast majority of us. But maybe for Mike Flynt, it is. I guess we'll see.

Mary Anne said...

Steve, let me explain my comments. If I read the article right, the 39 year old's wife is NOT thrilled with him playing at his age. I can understand her concern, because it is a physically demanding sport at ANY age. That tells me that this was more his idea. Even I know football is a tough sport on the body for a man who is in his prime. The 59 year old states his one regret was NOT playing. Why does he have to play on the college level though? I would be more inspired by this guy if he went out and got men his age interested in football, instead of trying to recapture his youth. Like I said in my previous post, if it was something less taxing on the body, I would have said this was a great story. As I said in my first post, the arguement is probably mute. I seriously doubt he will play anyway. I still think that someone at the college saw this as a great Oprah moment that would give them more press. The tone that I got from the 59 year old from the article was he was trying to recapture his youth. My question is why?

Steve Salerno said...

Fair points all, Mary Anne. And I must confess, I have a dog in this race: I am 57, and play in two men's baseball leagues (that's hardball, not softball), one of which is open to players as young as 35. It does take its toll, and my wife is not always happy about it, either.

Mary Anne said...

Steve, I would have any easier time with the 59 year old if he picked baseball over football. I can still remember the sound of Joe Theismann's leg snapping and that was over 20 years ago. I have only heard HORROR stories about the physical toll football takes on the college and professional levels. The National Football League is being under seige by former players for not adequately paying for health benefits once there careers are up. I do not hear these stories from former baseball players. It is the sport that I have a bit of a concern with.

Anonymous said...

"Can't live with them,..."

That's a joke, guys.


Anonymous said...

May Anne, I think mentioning Joe Theisman weakens your argument because he was still a young guy in his prime when he snapped his leg. So the risks are there irregardless of age. And yes btw, I'll never forget it either, you could clearly hear the sound on TV and they said you could hear it in the stadium. I think this calls for a balance, people have to have a realistic sense of their limits but also "keep trying". Maybe that's not much of an answer but what else is there? How do you know what you can do if you don't try? Like Steve says just give up?

Mary Anne said...

Steve, I was thinking about this story for awhile. A problem that I have with these tales of "lost youth" bother me on a very core level. Why are so many people living in regret? I never hear WHY these people did not do these things in their youth. Why didn't this guy play when he was 19 or whatever age? Did he lose his balls? Did he have a family crisis? Why aren't people more responsible for the choices they make in youth? Why don't they tell the stories of WHY they feel the need to recapture it? Let me give you a personal example to illustrate this. When I was 18 I had the option of going to UCLA or the Academy of Dramatic Art, Los Angeles. I loved theatre and writing equally. Both institutions were/are hard to get into. When I was 18 I chose acting, because I knew that acting favored the youth. I am now 37 and getting my English Degree, but not from UCLA. I also loved NYU and was accepted there. I take FULL responsibility that I am 37 getting my BA. I take FULL responsiblity that I chose to stay in California, instead of moving to NYU due to my fears of living out of state. Is it easy to go back to school at 37, actually it is not as bad as I thought. It is harder to break into a different career at my age though. Yet, I take FULL responsibility for MY decisions that I made at 18. I was at the UCLA campus last April and I played the "what if" game for a moment. The problem with these "what if" scenerios are they are an illusion. I would not have known how much more I loved writing if I HAD not gone to acting school and been in the entertainment business. You must taste the bitter to recognize the sweet. Therein lies my problem with these stories of recapturing youth. What is the message they are sending to people? Take your opportunities when you get them? Make better choices? Don't waste youth, but isn't that what youth is for?

Steve Salerno said...

Ahh, Mary Anne, you open so many cans of worms in this latest comment that I'm almost tempted to start a bait shop! There are questions of free will vs. fate, dreams vs. "pragmatism"--even that whole conversational land-mine about "aging gracefully," as my wife is wont to put it.

For some reason we seem to be missing many among our usual contingent of faithful SHAMbloggers, but I'm hoping that somebody else wants in on this before I have a chance to come back to it, probably early next week. These are very provocative themes and sub-themes (at least to me and Mary Anne, it would seem).

Cal said...

Mary Anne's comments do open a lot to think about. I wanted to be a sports journalist (I guess that's one reason I am always commenting on Sportsthink blog posts but I do have many other interests), but was pushed in another direction by family and teachers, etc. And I grew up not speaking my mind. I call it "going along to get along". I have regretted it since I see some of them my age doing well in TV and writing. And some of them I am sure are paid handsomely. (That's why I would have no problem taking the money and running.) I know there would be no guarantee that I would be one of the sports talking heads, but I will always wonder. Like Mary Anne, it would be very difficult to break into it at my age. I am aware of the financial problems most journalistic enterprises are facing because of the Internet. I am old enough to say I actually delivered an afternoon newspaper, which any person under 30 probably wouldn't believe ever existed. (Along with black and white TV without a remote, and rotary telephones.)

There was an article recently in the Wall Street Journal about a 43 year-old weekend warrior soccer goalie who sustained an major injury to his leg and his wife wants him to quit. Of course, he wants to keep playing. Her argument is that if he sustains a life-altering injury, it would affect their relationship as well as the one with his kids. He asked for reader responses and in a follow-up article, the author seemed to indicate the responses were 50-50 between telling him to "grow up" and consider what may happen and those who were on his side.

I am several decades younger than Steve and I only play softball. I have thought about baseball but I am not convinced my reflexes are at the level to avoid getting injured by the ball. Even in softball, I avoid sliding just because I haven't gotten a chance to practice it and I don't want to break a leg. When I go to major league games, I don't like sitting too close because of the foul balls. And not to mention the errant throws and flying or broken bats. I was going to say I'm surprised someone hasn't been killed, but recently a first-base coach in the minor leagues was hit by a line drive and killed.

The NFL issue has become front and center as well as the damage that pro wrestlers do to their bodies.

However, even if I was in the shape at the age of the guy in the article I wouldn't play tackle football with college kids. But there are exceptions to everything. I seriously doubt that other men of his age will follow in his footsteps. I hope he doesn't get injured.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks, Cal, for commenting at such length, and with such personal candor. I'm always fascinated by the backgrounds of the folks whose thoughts intersect here at SHAMblog.

Just as fascinating, to me, is the visceral fury that over-the-top endeavors--like that of our 59-year-old footballer--provoke in the hearts and minds of others. I was discussing this with an editor the other day, a rather sedentary fellow who gave up all things physical at around 45, and he said to me--I quote him verbatim--"Hey, I hope the dumb sonofabitch gets crippled." I think he was half-kidding--but I'm also pretty sure he was (at least) half-serious.

You wonder: What is it, deep inside, that motivates people to say such things about others who embark on paths we would never contemplate for ourselves?

Anonymous said...

"What is it, deep inside, that motivates people to say such things about others who embark on paths we would never contemplate for ourselves?"

Ah, a subject I can speak on - with authority:

How about an affinity with logic and reason? The plague of not suffering from cognitive dissonance - when everybody else seems to be? Caring so much you're disgusted by stupidity?

I personally support our 59 year old football player because the reality is he'll probably do fine, and, while there is a risk, I'm sure he knows what it is (we're talking about football). But that shouldn't be able to stop anyone from acknowledging that reality.

That's one of the things I despise about new agers: they want people to stop speaking of the realities they don't like. The response to a statement like "It's impossible for homeopathy to work" is hostility - or, at the very least, more cognitive dissonance - revealed through a loopy, sympathetic, smile for the non-believer or merely avoiding people who speak the truth. And speaks it because they care about you. (Oh, what a wonderful world they're creating!) Result: People who speak the truth stop caring, a little bit at a time, about others. And, like your editor, might even eventually find joy in pushing the lemmings over the cliff.

Finding your own truth: It's all about how you "feel", right?


Mary Anne said...

"What is it, deep inside, that motivates people to say such things about others who embark on paths we would never contemplate for ourselves?"

That depends on each person. Some people are jealous that someone has the gumption to do something they do not have the guts for. Remember that guy who was trying to fly around the world in a hot air balloon? I don't remember if he ever made it, but a lot of people thought he was nuts and he did it anyway. I just heard someone woman is trying to canoe to Australia from the U.S. I say if a person is not hurting anyone, that they should pursue their dreams. Now there is one caveat to those types of activities. They should have to pay for rescue efforts if emergency services are needed. Remember those people who climbed Mount Hood in Oregon last winter? They should have to pay for the rescue services instead of the tax payers. They CHOSE to go climbing in winter and should pay for their decision to do so. A lot of people change careers, go back to school, learn a new language, or whatever interests them after they realize that time is fleeting. The sticky area comes in when people are married and have families, because it is not just one person anymore. That person is part of a group. That group depends on each other and has to be taken into consideration.

Steve Salerno said...

Mary Anne, it's funny you should say that--your "caveat" section--because that is probably my wife's numero-uno pet peeve, at least in social matters: all these search parties we have to send out (at taxpayer expense) for "adventurists" who get themselves into sticky situations.

Anonymous said...

I just read this quote on why Democrats are losing, from David Brooks in the NYT, and thought he was echoing my view:

"...emotions are produced by learning. As we go through life, we learn what cause leads to what effect. When, later on, we face similar situations, the emotions highlight possible outcomes, drawing us toward some actions and steering us away from others.

In other words, emotions partner with rationality. It’s not necessary to dumb things down to appeal to emotions. It’s not necessary to understand some secret language that will key certain neuro-emotional firings. The best way to win votes — and this will be a shocker — is to offer people an accurate view of the world and a set of policies that seem likely to produce good results."

Am I wrong?


Steve Salerno said...

Sam, I sometimes have trouble telling whether you're being sarcastic or sly, but I'm going to take your comment at face value here. You see, this is another one of those "balance" issues that, to me, defy quantification or formulation into a system. In fact, your comment here sounds like a case for a pretty self-help-y view of life, if you want to know the truth.

To say that success comes down to finding a workable balance between rationality and emotion--OK, that's great. (That is what you're implying, right? Or no...?) But how does that help me in practice? How do I know specifically what that balance should be? What you're discussing here is not a system or a program, Sam; it's basically a platitude. ("Strive for balance in life...") It's like the people who say, "You have to consider others-- but not to the point where you become a martyr or a 'codependent'-type person." What does that mean in real life? How do I know WHEN I've crossed the line from one to the other? In what circumstances do I err more on one side than I might normally? Does it vary from person to person, and from situation to situation? Etc.

Anonymous said...

"Your comment here sounds like a case for a pretty self-help-y view of life"

No way! I think you misunderstand me, Steve - and, as I'm defending your editor's comments, what you're suggesting doesn't jibe:

I'm saying we should respect the truth - and not care so much how it's delivered (Brooks: "It’s not necessary to dumb things down to appeal to emotions. It’s not necessary to understand some secret language that will key certain neuro-emotional firings.") As I said, I don't like the (new age) tendency, today, to turn away from people if they come off too harsh, in favor of a message that's soothing, when it's the harsh delivery - but, more importantly, the accurate non-euphemism-laden message - they probably need. ("Keeping it real" as rappers say)

Many men today, especially, get sidelined, when they don't get all touchy-feely, like "nice" - as opposed to correctness - should be equated with respectability. There's actually no correlation between the two, as we, here, know all too well. I'm saying "an accurate view of the world and a set of policies that seem likely to produce good results" should be the only criteria for respect - not what appears to be a "balanced" approach. I actually think the new age approach most are taking is hurting our country (look at the title of your book again). It's hurting men - specifically - and black men, especially. The frustration, of living with a bunch of wrong-headed softies who won't listen unless you're kissing their asses, gets to be too much:

Not everyone's personality is cut out to make them the hugging guru, y'know?

That doesn't make them wrong - or unworthy of respect - and trying to act as though it does is self-defeating for everyone. We need such people. They're our fathers, and coaches, and drill instructors - and editors - the people who really care. People who keep "an open mind" will just let any ol' thing happen.

Conservatives (like Brooks, or to the other extreme, Rush Limbaugh) appear cold-hearted, and "unbalanced", to the "I feel your pain" Left. But, it's no surprise to me, that Brooks's article is also tellingly titled, "Why Democrats Keep Losing":

In the long run, when given a clear choice of options, Americans know better.


RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
The quest for "balance" need not be limited to mere platitudes, and is at the core of every major religious doctrine (even if some have conveniently ignored it). From the almost universally mistranslated Hebrew description of Divinity (Yod, which, rather than being a Divine Entity, is actually a State of Being in perfect balance between absolute power and absolute wisdom) to the more modern admonition to "Know thine enemy," we are guided to seek the balance in any situation. To be successful in any endeavor, we need to immerse ourselves into the mindset of our opponents, and structure our own actions in anticipation of/response to theirs. The quest for "balance" is not some obscure, esoteric endeavor, but rather a profoundly simple and practical enterprise.

I learned this lesson quite graphically in the dojo, where my own extensive training and greater strength were no match for a 65-year-old sensei's more balanced art. That we as a species still cling to the absurd notion that aggression equals strength is testament to our collective ignorance and stubbornness. And our
attempts to make the quest for balance more complex than it really is speaks volumes about our need to feel clever.

As to Sam's statement that "In the long run, when given a clear choice of options, Americans know better."...

I don't think that Dems are "losing" (note the last elections), but rather that the populace is actually seeking some balance; a cleaner space, if you will, between two equally corrupted parties, whose very existence relies upon their ability to distract the populace from focusing upon real issues by pointing accusatory fingers at each other.

And your 59-year-old? Wish him well as he chases his windmills. He may never be 20 again, but if he gets a kick out of the attempt, more power to him. We all do seemingly foolish things in our efforts to polish our self-image. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, I agree with you in concept. However, the crippling flaw in the whole idea of "balance" as a social prescriptive is that the pursuit of balance is an intensely personal (and probably sub- or pre-conscious) process, and therefore can never be translated into a one-size-fits-all regimen. (Balance in life means something very different to each of us, and may even mean something different to any one of us in different circumstances.) Which, therefore, means that, sloganeering aside, any program or process that is based on the pursuit of balance--from self-help to religion--is both impractical and impracticable, IMHO. Finding balance in life is not like adding 2 and 2 and getting 4; indeed, it means that sometimes you have to add 2 and 2 and get 5, and, at other times, 3. It simply cannot be made into a program for living that has any relevance from one individual to the next.

I know you're apt to call me a presumptuous so-and-so for saying this, but while you may think you have found balance, I think you've found something else: a set of internal algorithms that leave you feeling comforable about your choices in life. Fine. It works for you. Can you write it down for me, as one would write computer code? If you can't, then it's useless, because it's not reproducible.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
When I was in my senior year in college, I assisted teaching a freshman political science class. When it was my "cycle" of 3 classes, I started my first class by presenting Social Darwinism as a workable political philosophy. The students knew that it didn't feel right, but had difficulty offering valid points to refute my assertions. On the second day, they were more prepared, but rather than continue my endorsement, I attacked Social Darwinism, using arguments that were plausible-sounding, yet less than valid. The class began challenging my points, this time, endorsing the philosophy.

On the third day, I played back snippets of the recordings I had made of the 2 previous classes, showing the class how they had alternately been against, then in favor of Social Darwinism. I told them that the series was not about a specific political philosophy, but rather about manipulation, and the need to fully comprehend one's opponent in order to prevail. In short - though I did not describe it as such at the time - it was a lesson in balance.

I would posit that such results are reproducible, and far from useless, as the class learned the "Know thine enemy" lesson pretty well, and were much more effective in their responses to future presentations. Any good debate coach will advise their student to formulate arguments against their own position for just that reason. And in the dojo, knowing your opponent's moves is infinitely more important than having greater strength.

And perhaps I have found a means of taking the path with the least amount of discomfort. But I have learned that whenever two ideologies are diametrically opposed, both are failing to address the valid elements of the other, and are focused more upon victory than progress. The worst form of presumption is in ignoring that fact.

Mary Anne said...

"Can you write it down for me, as one would write computer code? If you can't, then it's useless, because it's not reproducible."

This Steve was so on point! This inability to give concrete directions to "whatever" someone is pursuing, is why I have such a problem with "self-help." I believe everyone must find their own way in this world. There is no clear cut road to take, but everyone wants directions. The people who make the money in this industry are the ones who give a guise of knowing how to get there. Contentment and balance are many things to many people. What is contentment to me, maybe chaos to another. Of course no one wants hear that. Everyone wants a "one size fits all" map. For good or bad, we all come in different sizes with different roads to travel or ignore.

Steve Salerno said...

Well, I don't want the Rev to think we're piling on. But (a) he's more than capable of taking care of himself in any discussion (or dark alley, I have a feeling), and (b) this, to me, embodies one of THE key battles in my ongoing war against SHAM. I think Mary Anne does a very nice job of saying what I might've said in rebuttal to Ron. I would add only that balance doesn't even always mean the same thing to the same person: What seems like "balance" one night, in one situation, with one person or group of people, may seem like erring too far on one side or the other on another night, in another situation, with another person or group of people.

And if we're going to leave it all to so-called instinct--then what good is any of this as a "program" or "process"? What good does it do for me to tell you to "find the balance" in your life if neither of us can define it and even you can't always tell me what it means or how you'd apply it?

RevRon's Rants said...

"What good does it do for me to tell you to "find the balance" in your life if neither of us can define it and even you can't always tell me what it means or how you'd apply it?"

It is my understanding that you are married. Assuming that the relationship is not solely one of economic convenience, there must be a certain degree of mutual respect in the mix. That respect is borne of an appreciation of each others' strengths and virtues, yet is tempered - balanced, if you will - by an acceptance of each other's idiosyncrasies and "flaws." Both are quantifiable only to the two of you, yet are no less real.

When a child loves, that love is absolute. It recognizes nothing save perfection in the object of its desire. As such, the child is doomed to inevitable heartbreak, as
once the illusion is broken, the love represents a dream proven false. As the child matures (in some, perhaps most cases). he/she learns to love, not solely for the flawlessness of illusion and what might be, but even for the things that are less than wonderful about the paramour. It is only in seeking this balance of emotions that love can survive. Yet denying the validity - or the necessity - of that balance because it lacks universality, or because the balance one individual seeks is not quantifiable by another would be ludicrous.

Each of us (hopefully) strives to be a "good" person, and to achieve whatever we perceive as happiness. While there are a few common characteristics to both states, much of the definition is unique to each individual. Upon whom shall we bestow the mantle of arbiter, empowered to decide what represents goodness, beyond the dictates of a civilized society, or happiness? Whom do we have that we may look to for a judgment as to whether or not we are "on the path" to fulfill our aspirations? The answer is, only ourselves. We must rely upon our own judgment, borne not only of instinct, but of what we have learned as we experience life. Excluding individuals plagued with some severe psychopathology, each of us is constantly in search of that balance.

We seek the advice of others to help us define and achieve it, but it is ultimately an inside job, whose fundamental framework is established by the individual alone. My problem with the SHAM world - as well as the rabidly skeptical - is that both attempt to narrowly define what is acceptable in the course of human endeavor, and denigrate any concept that falls outside the realm of their definitions. Both "sides" seem to focus their efforts solely upon proving the efficacy of their own ideas and disproving the efficacy of the ideas of others. Were each "side" to be motivated toward improving their lives, rather than merely winning an argument and reinforcing a self-image, they would each be much more successful in achieving what every reasonably healthy human wants.

Do I claim to have "the answer?" Hell, no. Connie will attest to the fact that I can be moody, mean, and shallow as the best of them. But I think she also sees that beneath all my ugly flaws is the desire to improve; beneath even my cruelty, there is the constant desire to be gentle. So it is with us all. The notion of abandoning those aspirations, simply because they cannot be measured in an equation, would - to me - represent the ultimate act of cynicism and the abandonment of hope. I'd much rather find myself in a dark alley than in such a world.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, we can't even define what a "good person" is or does. We can't even agree on the simplest things. Does a good person kill? No. But wait--what about the death penalty? Abortion? What about "just wars"? OK, so sometimes a good person does kill. But what makes a war "just"? Who decides? Was 9/11 a good thing or a bad thing? To whom? They danced in the streets of Palestine when those buildings came down, so clearly 9/11 wasn't universally a bad thing. (And they attacked those buildings, lest we forget, in God's name.) In fact, if you believe in God, you have to accept that even He once killed off all of His children, because He was disappointed in Man. So is God, even, good? Or bad?

All such terms--good, bad, happy, sad, positive, negative, and yes, "balance"--are flawed and imprecise to the point of meaninglessness. Maybe your balance is my extremism. So if we can't even decide what to balance when we're striving for it, what's the point of even talking about it? Just live life and hope for the best. Or as you (much more elegantly) put it, " is ultimately an inside job, whose fundamental framework is established by the individual alone." Amen.

RevRon's Rants said...

"In fact, if you believe in God, you have to accept that even He once killed off all of His children, because He was disappointed in Man."

Only if you believe in one specific cultural definition of God as puppeteer. And to deny the value of faith because some engage in horrific acts, declaring same as acts of faith doesn't define faith so much as it does that group's illusion.

"All such terms--good, bad, happy, sad, positive, negative, and yes, "balance"--are flawed and imprecise to the point of meaninglessness."

To me, this is little more than a semantic argument, offered for its own sake. To honestly live one's life within such a definition would require either powerful medications or a prefrontal lobotomy. Like much of the offerings of Descartes, it sounds interesting, but has no bearing on actual life, beyond the games of mental tennis we play with each other.

We live, and we seek to fulfill our hungers. While we define those hungers individually, we constantly seek that common denominator that binds our quests to each other's. That common denominator is the balance to which I refer, and IMHO, denying its validity - or indeed, its existence - has no effect upon it. It serves only to reinforce our desired self-image of cleverness.

Anonymous said...

I hope it's not too late to get in on the discussion of Mike Flynt.

Mary Anne, not knowing Mike Flynt is SO FAR OFF BASE that it's scary. A synic at best and very nasty comments about someone she's never met, nor knows anything about. I'm not through. rw

Anonymous said...

Did I misspell cynic? sorry. Mike is not selfish. He doesn't want to play ball with guys his age (like me) because we got beat up playing with him 37 years ago and since. Mike went down and worked out for the coaches PRIOR to two-a-days. THE COACHES asked him back because they felt, based on his performance, that he might be able to make the team. Age is not a set of mind when you step on the field in college football. You better have your s**t together.
Mike did not speak to the press until he had made the team. He's not concerned with publicity, he's concerned about making the team and making a contribution.
The players have a great deal of respect for Mike, especially after watching him out perform them in the weightroom. I shall continue. rw

Steve Salerno said...

RW, thanks for weighing in, so to speak. Better late than never.

Please keep us posted. Please also keep in mind the rules of the blog, notably that we want to avoid profanity and personal attacks on the other contributors. These are emotionally charged topics, at times, but I don't think that's too much to ask. (I'm not saying you were "too personal" here. I'm just saying that the best policy is always to stick with presenting relevant facts and well-reasoned opinions, as you did in your second comment.)

Anonymous said...

Mary Anne,

so EVERY person playing sport in college are only playing because they are going to play professionally? Bunk.They do it because sports are fun and most know they have little chance at playing at the next level. Shame on you. It's possible, to do things simply because you enjoy them.
I've read a thousand comments about Mike but none like yours. No insight, no knowledge, hateful, but I'll say this, if Mike read them he would forgive you and pray that you get out of the house and accomplish something.
Reread the article. Mike was booted his Senior year during two-a-days. We had a great team and with Mike as a team leader we were looking to "go all the way". With Mike gone, it upset the whole balance of the team (not to mention "the incident) and we were mediocre at best. Why go back and try it again? Because he can. But Mike has already been an insprition to thousands even as far away as New Zealand. Maybe his mission is to provide inspiratio, that was part of his job in 71'. Only God knows. But please know this Mary Anne, he made the team legitimately and he will play and then maybe we'll hear from you "Oh my God, he did it, I was wrong, this man is truly an inspiration to all". Take care and God Bless, rw

RevRon's Rants said...

"I'm not saying you were "too personal" here."

"No insight, no knowledge, hateful,..."

Just curious, Steve... At what point does it get "too personal?"

Steve Salerno said...


Ron, I do the best I can. OK? I try to fall back on that hoary all-purpose criterion, "redeeming social value." I thought that on balance, "rw" made points that deserved hearing, especially since he knows (or presents himself as knowing) the fellow at the heart of my original post.

This is an imperfect human exercise conducted over an imperfect digital medium; sometimes feelings are going to get hurt. All I can say is, I think that overall, I uphold higher standards for civil discourse than do most blogs. We don't have people here who come to the blog simply to flame each other or "bitch each other out."

RevRon's Rants said...

I guess I would have expected you to ask the commenter to re-sumbit their opinion, sans the personal attacks. IMHO, that would be in keeping with the stated intent of the blog. But you know what they say about opinions...

a/good/lysstener said...

Ron, I'm not looking to set off a war here but I feel I have to say something. I don't understand why it is you always look for a reason to get on Steve's case about this topic?

Just because a person writes eloquently doesn't mean their attacks on people are any less personal or cutting than the things you criticize Steve for allowing other people to say! Some people will call their opponent an "idiot". Certain other people spend 100 words saying the same thing or worse in dressed-up language, that is just as crushing and callous ultimately as words like "idiot"! Is that what makes the difference then, to you? Somebody who knows their way around the English language is more entitled to personal attacks, as long as they do it with fancy footwork? In my book, rude is rude, regardless of how expertly a person does it. That's how I see it anyway.

Steve Salerno said...

Uh-oh. As Jackie Gleason used to say (long before Alyssa was a gleam in anyone's eye), "And awaaaay we go...!"

Seriously, I think there's some validity to the point. Does it really come down to a question of the semantics of criticism? Is an attack launched with the artful complexity of, say, a George Bernard Shaw inherently more tolerable/permissible than simply calling someone "a dumb-ass"? I have to admit, I don't think I know the answer to that one. At least, I'm not so sure....

RevRon's Rants said...

"I don't understand why it is you always look for a reason to get on Steve's case about this topic?"

Is that what you perceive me as doing, Alyssa? Perhaps you should re-read some of my comments. I simply feel that ad hominem attack serves no purpose in constructive dialog, and actually serves to inhibit the exchange of ideas. Perhaps you disagree, which is, of course, your prerogative.

I do agree with you that "rude is rude," and that personal attacks are unwarranted in all cases, especially since they reflect more negatively upon the person making the attack than upon the target.

While your desire to defend Steve is basically admirable, it is, I feel, misplaced, since the very purpose of the blog is to present different opinions on given topics. Steve and I occasionally disagree. Big surprise. Besides, if Steve feels I am treating him unfairly, he is quite capable of defending himself. But I suspect he knows me better than that, even given the limitations of online dialog.

RevRon's Rants said...

No worries here, Steve! I'm a pacifist, remember? :-)

I do think there's a significant difference between calling someone a name and pointing out an alleged flaw in their argument or acknowledging what appears to be a "between the lines" assessment of their demeanor. The difference is that the former is intended to intimidate the target into being silent, while the latter is intended to promote further discussion. The ad hominem attack is intended to be hurtful and demeaning, while the challenge is intended, well... to challenge the individual to defend their points.

While some "challenges" may well sting, such is not necessarily their primary purpose. On the other hand, some people perceive any challenge as an attack. I think it's up to the reader to determine for him/her self in which category a comment rightfully belongs.

Oh... and you're a curmudgeonly old poopy-head. But then again, so am I, so the moniker I apply to you is more an expression of simpatico than an attack, isn't it? :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Yeah. I think where this gets trickiest, Ron (and Alyssa), is when people gravitate from debating the "true facts" of a topic to debating the skill with which an opponent has weaved those facts into an argument. It's one thing to say "No, you're wrong, we landed at Normandy in 1944, not 1945." It's something else again to say, "Anyone who thinks we landed at Normandy in 1945 has a piss-poor sense of history." And then to generalize further, using that assumption--that the person has a piss-poor sense of history--to attack the integrity of the rest of his argument as well. The first case is saying "you're mistaken." The second cased is saying "you're stupid."

This isn't a particularly new thought, but it's regrettable that political discourse, today, has basically degenerated into the attempt to find openings to attack your opponent's intelligence, character, etc. Candidates stick to the issues for about 10 seconds, then broaden their argument into personal invective at the first opportunity. The same is true of the talk shows (like the thankfully now-defunct Crossfire) and the talking-heads types (Limbaugh, Hannity, etc). So this is what young people grow up thinking "debate" is. Lincoln and Douglas must veritably be spinning in their graves (though I must say, if you read the transcripts of their famous verbal duels, there were some sharp words exchanged there, too, now and then. Clever and timeless. But sharp).

Mary Anne said...

Steve, I can defend myself pretty well. Anon, first, I read the article about Mike Flint that Steve attached to this blog. I gave MY opinion about the "blog." Second, IF you READ my posts, you would see that my comments were based on what I read from the article. I have a right to my opinion. Mike Flint's wife alluded to the fact she was not thrilled with his idea of playing football, which leads me to believe she is not thrilled with him playing. Third, my first blog was based on my opinion of the college, which by the way, I still hold. Am I cynical, maybe, but I have worked in the media and know the game VERY well. How did the newspaper find out about Mike Flynt are they psychic? Someone must have told them. Maybe he will play, but I doubt it. Finally, most of my blogs were not on Mike Flint personally, but on WHY we as a society feel the need to recapture our youth or feel the need to. Also some of my blogs were about the brutality of football, which is being debated in Congress right now with disabled players from the NFL. If I was "hateful" to Mike Flynt, my posts would not have gone through. I cannot be hateful to a man I have never met.

RevRon's Rants said...

Within the vast gray area between disputing hard facts and denigrating an opponent in debate, I think it's a good idea to bear in mind that acrimony - like beauty - is often in the eye of the beholder.

To posit that another's viewpoint is illogical is very different than calling the other person stupid. Yet some people perceive challenges to their ideas as being direct affronts to their person. Sadly, the inherent anonymity of online discourse exacerbates this trend, as we lack an awareness of the true nature of those with whom we correspond, and are not privy to the nuances of body language and personality. People who know me also know that diplomacy is not my highest priority, and that if I think a person is an idiot, I'm very likely to say as much, and to their face.

I will acknowledge that if I perceive someone as allowing their discussion to be driven by internal issues, I'm not averse to pushing their buttons a bit. But I've already admitted to a degree of curmudgeon-ness. :-)