They had to talk me down from the ledge when some teacher explained that entire bodily systems—heart, digestion, even blinking—worked without me thinking about it. They’re background programs. I knew these things took place, but never considered just how, exactly.
When it was emphasized to me that if we’d actually have to think about circulating our blood, inhaling oxygen, and focusing our eyes on fine print, we’d probably cease to exist in fairly quick order, I panicked. What if these processes came under manual control at some point? I couldn’t competently glue one piece of construction paper to another. How was I supposed to also handle the direction of each individual white blood cell?
If these ordinary bodily procedures suddenly required daily maintenance, I suppose we’d struggle mightily individually, but produce a far more livable society. There will be little time or concern for Instagram influencer posts when you suddenly realize you haven’t produced any enzymes lately.
This is why professional athletes make more money than grocery store cart corallers. The ballplayers got an extra automatic system. They throw the ball harder and higher, hit with greater power. There’s a great deal of practice and refining that feeds these activities, of course, but I could run set-and-throw drills for months at a time and still heave the ball no further than the distance of your average bathroom stall, let alone across an entire baseball diamond. These people are different. They just are.
I wonder when they know they’re different. Sooner these days rather than later, I’d wager, given that tee ball league organizations now exist for embryos. Gotta get a jump on the pre-schoolers to make the 5U select travelling team.
It’s not a matter of pushing children too much too soon; success, skill development, and determination are good things, and those of us who will never ever get the volleyball over the net from the serving position tend to wash out fairly early. The girls in my grade school who ran the fastest were regulars on the parish soccer team front line positions by second grade. They all became track athletes. Of course they did. They covered ground and they knew it. The coaches knew it. Extra speed without even thinking about the matter.
As I grow more and more disillusioned with pro sports, even preparing to turn my face away from the Olympics—once a tremendous viewing ritual—I need to come to terms with the concept that I am perhaps asking too much of the NCAA, Team USA, the NFL, the MLB. If talent scouts are hanging around fourth graders, why are we surprised when sometimes that fourth grader becomes a basket case of an adult with inadequate critical thinking skills, family drama, money issues, drug abuse problems, and geriatric knees as a college sophomore?
There’s no pure sport because there are no pure viewers. You might just want to watch a ballgame because it’s fun to see refined athletes working at superhuman levels and these are Your Guys, but the person next to you wants a community experience with all major political opinions and ethical considerations aligned and validated on the field of play, and these political opinions and ethical considerations are the opposite of the person sitting next to her. All of your tickets cost the same. All of you have valid, and utterly incompatible, requests.
Whose requirements are the for-profit entities running these shows going to meet? Because it can’t be everybody’s. And, as many fans trade niche podcasts for sports reports and crowdfunded media services for giant satellite trucks, that’s becoming increasingly acceptable for everyone involved.
Maybe baseball becomes a matter of choice rather than an involuntary injection of local culture, and for that, it shrinks even more than it already has. And that is to our detriment, for the heart works best when it’s fed automatically, when we’re not even thinking about it.