Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dear hack sportswriter: They won, but it wasn't 'in the Cards.'

I'VE COVERED THIS ad nauseam, and my Sportsthink posts aren't especially fan favorites...but yanno, some forms of social lunacy can never be debunked quite enough.

When oh when will sportswriters stop writing garbage like this, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss? In the interest of expediency, I quote from his lede, about Cardinals slugger Carlos Beltran:
No player, no manager, no team was going to take this night from Carlos Beltran.
No way.

From the moment Beltran served the Los Angeles Dodgers notice of his presence by twisting Clayton Kershaw’s fastball into a double in the first inning, a crammed house might have suspected it was witness to something more than the Cardinals’ advancing to a fourth World Series in 10 seasons. It would see Ahab catch the white whale and Don Quixote slay the windmill.
(Ahab?... Don Quixote?... Gag me.)

Anyway, so that's why Beltran doubled...because he wanted it, eh Joe? And that's why the Cards won and are now moving on to the World Series...because he wanted it, and they fed off his indomitable desire. So are we to assume, then, that Beltran had no interest in reaching the World Series when he was with the Royals, or the Mets, or even the Cardinals of 2012 vintage? It's only now, in 2013, that he suddenly decides he's not going to be denied? (And while we're on the subject, how did the 2011 Cards manage to take the Series without him?)

Of all the things to harp on about what's wrong with self-help, Sportsthink may seem the most benign. Untrue. Not only is it capable of creating a tremendous amount of guilt, even self-loathing, in impressionable young athletes who, despite their best efforts, lose; it also reinforces the absurd, law-of-attraction-like cultural message that "you can do anything you want if you really put your mind to it." That's a pleasant-enough self-deception when held in moderation by people who are capable of keeping things in perspective, but it can be terribly damaging in those who adopt it as a mantra, a way of life. It also elevates wishful thinking above traditional American ideals like hard work, discipline, and self-sacrifice...thereby, I would argue, revealing itself in the end as a paradox: The more you subscribe to it, the less likely you are to succeed in any form.

The simple truth is, we can't all be president. We can't all get to the World Series. We can't even be Carlos Beltran, or anywhere close. The fact that we can't has nothing to do with any presumed moral or spiritual failings.

Further, to expand on the paradox alluded to above, Sportsthink, like so much of empowerment-based self-help, scorns a Plan B. You're supposed to commit fully to Plan A, thereby ensuring your success. But if you have no Plan B, then where does that leave you every fourth year, when someone who isn't you gets sworn in as president? Or let's say you're a bit more realistic and you set your sights a bit lower: You're determined to be a pop-music artist, or Hollywood's next great leading man. Or let's say you're merely going to be the lucky dude who marries curvy Yolanda Simmons down the street. What do you do when you've organized your entire life around the recording contract you don't get, or no one offers you any leading roles, or someone else sweeps hot Yolanda off her feet (while she's on her way to get a PFA order against you due to your incessant stalking)?

So Mr. Strauss, do us all a favor; stop contributing to a school of (non)thought that's already way too rampant. Find another hook for your stories from now on.

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