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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wimbledon, and the end of Joy (7/9/08)

This week, yet another sport helped to illustrate the “Joy of Sox” principles – this time, it was tennis. Sunday’s Wimbledon men’s finals has already been widely acclaimed as the greatest Wimbledon match ever. It featured flawless tennis stretched over nearly 7 hours (4 hours and 48 minutes of actual tennis, plus a couple of lengthy rain delays), ending in the end of an era: Roger Federer’s 5 year monopoly at Wimbledon terminated at the hands of his young usurper, Rafael Nadal. The connection between tennis and baseball’s “Joy of Sox” is simple – these two men played the game at such a high level of excellence for so long with so much at stake, that the crowd ended up cheering for the glory of tennis as much as for any individual winner or loser. This was the seemingly impossible frame of mind that so many of our researchers had felt would be the most effective in eliciting sterling performances from athletes – and at Wimbledon, it was!

If we’d been able to set up our RNG devices at Centre Court, the readings would have been sky high by the time the match ended at 9:15 PM GMT, a few minutes away from being postponed til Monday due to darkness. Even though the fans seemed evenly split between Nadalians and Federerists, their cheers transcended simple Good Guy/Bad Guy rivalries – they were for tennis itself. That’s because those fans experienced the joy of sports at its most exalted and were elevated beyond the world of duality. I know I was. So any sport can do it, and that’s why sports continues to thrive in a world that’s become enmeshed in “Us vs. Them” thinking. And in times like these, sports is anything but trivial. Hopefully, the upcoming Beijing Olympics can live up to the true Olympic ideal, and similarly showcase the excellence of skillful athletes at their peak, without getting too caught up in nationalistic medal counts. In fact, there will be RNGs monitoring the Olympics: go to noosphere.princeton.edu
and click on “results” for ongoing updates. The Grecian ideals are not likely to be attained anymore in these days of media saturation and the commercialization of everything, but it’s still a grand aspiration.

On a less exalted plane, back on the home front, there’s been one more sign that Red Sox Nation is getting corrupted by its own success. The original team embodied democratic ideals (with a lower case D) and notions of fun, fair play, cameraderie and teamwork. But the signs of sellout have been growing in recent months (see my recent post called “The Tipping Point” for the gory details), and the latest one may be the most troubling. It takes us back to the thorniest ethical dilemma in sports: how far would you go to win? Steroid using athletes showed us just how far individuals would go in order to win, and some recent trade rumours are showing how far Red Sox, Inc. might go.

Due to the extended injury-related absence of slugger and team metronome David Ortiz, the search is on for a replacement for the second half of the season, in case he doesn’t bounce all the way back. Sox scuttlebutt has it that the team has been holding off-the-record talks with the sports agent who represents the most notorious of all present-day ballplayers – Barry Bonds. For the non-fan, he’s a hugely talented player whose all-time record for most career home runs will be tainted by the asterisk of steroid use (never proven in court, but with mountains of circumstantial evidence). He’s been persona non grata around the Major Leagues since his last contract ran out, despite still having the ability to hit well. And if the Sox are in fact pursuing him, that would be clear proof that they’ve sold their soul to the Devil. The ends would justify the means, just about any means, despite all the rhetoric about integrity we’ve been hearing from Sox corporate management over the years.

It’s still only a rumour, and there might be nothing to it. We’ll probably never know for sure, espeically if nothing actually materializes. But the fact that such a deal could even be considered a legitimate topic for speculation is one more sign that this team is fast losing its bearings in its quest to sell more tickerts and obtain any player to win at any cost. The “Joy of Sox” is becoming the “Ploy for Jocks” (a bad pun, but the end justifies the means!). It’s also become the American way, as sports continues to function as a microcosm of society as a whole, reflecting back to us our worst faults and our highest ideals.


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The Joy of Sox: Weird Science and the Power of Intention is produced by 2 Cousins Productions and Pinch Hit Productions. © 2006 The Joy of Sox Movie LLC. For more information, contact info@thejoyofsoxmovie.com.

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