If we should question the teeth of Elephants, that is, whether they be properly so termed, or might not rather be called horns; it were no new enquiry of mine, but a paradox as old as Oppianus. — Sir Thomas Browne
While it is certainly true that I am never lost, but that I just happen to have very little idea where I am going, it is also very true that I often have very little idea where I am going. A man is afforded the opportunity to test his directional prowess in stadiums where athletic events are taking place. For though all men are unique, and no two are completely similar in physical or mental makeup, it still holds that most men have heads. It is, in fact, far more likely for a young man to get lost in a stadium than out in nature, for nature allows us to find our way by the sun or the stars. But as I was saying, most men have heads, and when looking for that particular back portion of a head, lost in a sea of heads, the task becomes excruciatingly difficult.
The author of these audacious Amblers has mixed feelings about the nature of athletic competitions. It is becoming truer that the religious fervor which once dominated our lands is being replaced by an unhealthy adoration for these competitions–men knowing and openly discussing the height and weight of other men. Nevertheless, athletic competitions allow us to freely observe a fundamental aspect of man–competition. It was during one of these events that I left my seat and took on the role of water boy. Juggling four water bottles and stumbling and staggering my way toward the aisle, I finally made it “out of the frying pan and into the fire,” if you will. For though not as congested, the aisle at an athletic stadium is no safe place to be. It is similar to merging into the freeway, and I was that car that, upon getting onto the freeway, seems to have second guessed the choice, and instead of speeding up with the rest of traffic, maintains its original speed.
And there I was, attempting to keep track of whose water bottle was whose without spilling or dropping anything. Emerging from the row I was end, I picked up speed lest I got bulldozed over, and in so doing, I completely disregarded the number of the row. Despite the odds not being in my favor, I eventually did make it to the water fountain where I proceeded to fill up four water bottles while impatient and dehydrated fans cursed me under their breath. I was undeterred, however, and my shirt supporting the home team, I was not pummeled to death. It happened, though, that because I was far too concerned about keeping the specific water bottle with its owner and keeping my eyes glued to the bottles, I reentered to the stadium in the wrong section.
The back of a man’s head is not so unique, and so I labored down a few steps–all the while attempting to keep the water bottles straight–and sought to get a view of the faces from down below. It was at this point that I cursed myself for not making note of the numbers of my row. Numbers are objective. Faces are not. A man may smile and smile and still be a villain. The false face must hide what the false heart doth know. In short, the sea of white faces looked wholly unfamiliar to me until I spotted a particular individual whom I believed to have recognized from before. If this were the same individual, which of course it was not, my row should be three up from his. So dodging bodies and fumbling with the bottles, I proceeded up and down that aisle to get a proper view. Nothing. No familiar faces in sight. At some point in my traversing back and forth through the aisle, eyes no longer glued to the bottles, but wide-eyed in fear of losing my friends, I believe the attendants began to get rather annoyed with me. It was to my fortune that at some point during this debacle the home team scored, putting everyone in a jolly mood.
That athletics are unnaturally taken with far too much seriousness these days is true. But athletic competitions remind us an important lesson, and that is, that though winning is good and more desirable, losing is necessary. They harken back to the soul of man, the now forgotten soul that would dash off to war and fight for a cause. But now the only cause worth fighting for is the fight for the self. Goodness, morality, truth, and meaning all proceed from within us these days and fighting for an ideal is seen as problematic for a pluralistic society.
This mindset has infected modern society to the point where standards, or the ideal, are outdated and not helpful. The only standard that matters is the standard we set up for ourselves. So every kid gets a trophy even if he does nothing but pick at dandelions during the game. Every high school student gets a diploma even if he cannot (or will not) read it. I recently read a somewhat outdated (an often ill-used term) article that argued an English major can graduate with a bachelor’s degree without taking a single course in grammar. But it is not that he can get a bachelor’s degree without taking a grammar course; it is that he can obtain his doctorate without taking, or knowing, any grammar; it is that, if he really wants to, he can be a doctor in English, having no latin and less Greek; that he can teach English at a university without ever having read Plato, Aristotle, or the Apostle Paul. I would not be so surprised if the average English doctorate student read fewer than three plays by Shakespeare outside required class readings and was more familiar with the modern theory on gender than Milton, Dickens, or Chaucer.
When the home team scored and the crowd cheered, I was reminded, and grateful, that the majority of the world does not live in academia. I did eventually find my friends and we watched the band blow and bang on their instruments, inciting the crowd to cheer their team to victory. In athletics, equality is the pejorative. The odd thing about a fight song is that, it does not really encourage anyone to fight. More than likely, the songs invite the crowd to march in honor of their ideal–their ideal team. But, of course, I believe our culture needs more fight songs for things other than gridiron. We should compose fight songs for every aspect of society. The local grocery store should compose a fight song to counteract the horrible globalization our nation has undergone. The checkers and baggers should sing the song while they work; men at the meat counters would slice the meat to the beat; the ‘duce-man would juggle apples and oranges; other ‘duce-men would spin the celery like a baton; the men stocking the shelves would do so in a beautiful pattern, perhaps the store’s logo, as they marched down the aisle; the fans who come to this grocery store would eventually join in; the revolution would be started; the locals would march for their ideal grocery store simply because it was theirs.*
Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
August 31, 2014
Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
In “The Catacombs,”
Kansas State University English Department,
September 9, 2014
Painting: “Fulham Marching Band”
by Rosie Sayers,
Oil on canvas, n.d.
*The thoughts on the final paragraph are courtesy of R. Eric Tippin who likewise received the same ideas from G.K. Chesterton’s fantastic essay, “The Little Birds Who Won’t Sing.”