Training for the Race

Paul loved sports metaphors. He talked about training for the race. Running the race.

Our house in my youth was a sports house, and football was the main one. I rememeber growing up with the Cleveland Browns on TV (I’m from Ohio, there was no Bengals). Dad was a big Notre Dame fan. Into adulthood, I watched the Browns every Sunday of the season. I “lived and died” with the Browns, as the saying goes. (They were good back then.)

Twenty-five years ago I started refereeing men’s soccer matches on Sunday afternoons in the fall. I didn’t watch as much football (and the Browns stopped building good teams–which continues unto today). I find watching soccer from Europe more entertaining in the few times I have that I can watch TV.

I’m thinking about the sport, though. What sort of team sport is it where the important stats are how many players are not injured during the game. NFL football has become over the past 20 years or so a “war of attrition.” The team that manages to avoid the most injuries has the best chance of winning the championship.

Yet during this time of changing the rules and equipment of the sport to promote the “Big Hit” which the NFL has done, the sport became the most popular team sport in America. Young men spend their entire lives training for a profession that is designed to cripple them. After a career of about six years, they retire before age 30 crippled for life.

Boxing is another sport where equipment allows the Big Hit but it has been supplanted by mixed martial arts where guys (and increasingly girls) beat the crap out of each other for the entertainment of millions.

When I started this stream of thoughts, I had no idea where it would lead. It began with an observation.

We could go two ways. One would be the usual condemnation of people who even thought supposedly civilized are not that far removed from the Roman crowds who cheered on fighters who fought to the death in the arena.

Then I thought about the goal we are training for. Because we should be in training right now. Paul didn’t think we ever stopped training and running. Paul Simon wrote a song using boxing as a metaphor for a wasted life. What is the metaphor of our life?

Are we training for the wrong life? For a wasted life? Or a full life?

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