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Mulling Over the Champion

November 22, 2010

The Champion has at least two faces.

One is just an image, created by the media for sales purposes. This same image is also used by people to reinforce or create their own picture of themselves.

The second face is reality. A champion is a person who comes from somewhere and has a whole life. Achievement, glory, victory, sport are just part of their lives. A major question here is how being a champion fits in with the rest of their life. It's why we have biographies.

I think we become alarmed when a champ's story drops away to nullity or badness after or around their wins. And for good reason.

We're pleased when victory seems to fit in well with a wholesome life.

...And in with a wholesome society.

We know that a champ represents the peak of a pyramid. Obviously, many try but only one can win. But it's important, just the same, what the others are like, and what happens to them, just as it's important what a champ is like before, after and around his winning.

It's all one piece.

That's why it's important to know what happens to old athletes, and, of course, many "old" champs are still young. It's also important to know what happens to all the others.

If a sport is surrounded on all sides by injury and management of injury, what are we to think? If those who tried fall away due to serious hurt and if those who win also soon are hurt and quit and if those who just fade nicely away also end up with nagging injuries, what should we think?

Injury isn't the only thing to consider. What about social relations? What are champs like behind the scenes? What are those who try and fail like? If we really knew, how would we view the challenges they attempt?

I have my old sports heroes. What were they like and what are they like now? And what about the "pack filler" -- what happened to them? What does this kind of trying do to a person?

How do all these people pre-select in the first place? Where do they come from and how are they able to be there? What are the conditions and the prices paid?


It seems related in a way to the idea of military Special Forces. Quite a few people tend to be awed by them. We may not want to be them but the things they do seem big and intense. One of them can do what a hundred regulars can't. ...But this kind of ability and achievement comes with a price. Is it all "better" and "more"? I've read some reports on these groups. It is indeed astonishing to find out that, for instance, in the Vietnam War quite a few of the SF groups had 100% casualties, meaning they all were at least injured. Most of them multiple times. They couldn't even keep track of their Purple Heart situations. Much of what they did couldn't even be reported. It wasn't that it was so brutal but that it was different and didn't fit in with any official channel. Hardly any of the reports, bio's and memoirs I've come across commented on what happened to these guys when they went home. I can't help but believe -- especially in that day of skimpy debriefing -- that there was nearly universal incapacitation. Divorce, impairment, suicide, addiction. It's not in the end admirable that these guys were trained to be Elite Tools and then dropped back into life and expected to no longer be a Tool. I'm tempted to say "a Human Weapon" but they often had to do much more than that, although many were trained to be pure, extreme Destroyers. I'd think that if you train someone to be an elite Functionary, if not a Human Weapon, then you'd need equally as intense and thorough training for them to be brought back to being Good Citizens. They weren't selected beforehand for their citizenship, but for their *expendable* ability to be supreme Tools. However, for us to really know the situation and to evaluate the value of these people we MUST know "the rest of the story" about them. Even if these soldiers give us amazing victories afield, if they come home and poison themselves, is it worth it? I guess we might have to expect more casualties than only those that occur on the battlefield. But we should be heads-up about it. If there's no going home or going back for these soldiers, we need to know that. It changes the nature of the sacrifice. And changes our appreciation of it. But what if the harm of what they bring home is greater than the benefits of their wins abroad? What if they were sacrificed for bad motives? A sacrifice isn't always noble. Where does cynicism fit in? Furthermore, there's the idea of karma. Chickens come home to roost based on whatever we do. Extreme methods of winning come with all sorts of side effects beyond mere function. Of course, these are considered, but sometimes things are done secretly, as if publicity is the only side effect.

At any rate, it seems like the Special Forces can serve as an example of the how the Champion in general might function in our society.

What if, to get one story of a wonderful winner in any field of life we end up with scores of damaged goods falling away on all sides and with the winners themselves decomposing badly. That would be bad. But maybe not what an image-obsessed culture -- or personality -- wants to be public about or to accept.

Sometimes as we look upward to improvement we're blind, for awhile, to consequences, which, when suddenly seen, can be startling, not to say horrific. ("We were just trying to get some thrills in this race, now look at my friend! He's torn limb from limb!" -- Was it worth it?)

A flipside might be if there's a way of achievement which brings everyone involved along a beneficial path of increasingly clear-eyed awareness despite risks. There may be another way of valuing risk. Is the risk of hurting our bodies and other people worth it? Do we have the right to take those kinds of risks? What about risking our illusions? When we break through those we might let others down if they're still caught up in them. So there might be different ways of evaluating injury. We have to weigh and balance it all out, I'd think. We don't have the right to scandalize others. But society should be set up so that we can make efforts toward ever-better kinds of achievement.

Real champions may well price a price for their achievement. Doing the right thing isn't always a recipe for uniform health and good times. Having the right priorities doesn't always feel good to the lesser parts of ourselves, like our bodies. Hopefully these champs know that if they lose in some way they gain in even better ways. This is far better than the reverse, where some winners report that what they won was hollow and what they paid was what they now value and wish they hadn't given over.

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