The Spirit of the Game

by Mark English

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Though I was not a natural sportsman, forces associated with school and family pushed me into various sporting activities which (as I see even more clearly in retrospect than I did at the time) I endured rather than enjoyed.

Back then I pooh-poohed the idea that sports, especially team sports, were character-building. Quite the opposite, I thought. Observing the behavior of teammates and opponents alike, I came to believe that playing sports only serves to bring out our worst qualities. I have come to modify this point of view however.

One positive thing which can be said for traditional games and sports is that, because they reflect (at least to some extent) the harsh and intractable realities of a wider world, they serve to counter Walter Mitty-like tendencies. And this could be seen to be ever more important as gaming and virtual reality technologies extend the possibilities of personalized escapist fantasies in ways that Thurber could never have imagined.

Sporting contests can also teach you to lose – and to win – with grace and equanimity. This may be more about manners than morals but it is no less important for that.

As I see it, the only strictly moral benefit of an initiation into traditional sporting culture relates to the idea of fair play: of playing by the rules – and the spirit of the rules. I don’t want to go on about this. I could elaborate and give examples etc., but I am wary of moralizing. Besides, I am inclined to think that if these concepts are not real to you already, nothing I say will make them so.

I don’t want to claim that there is this special way of looking at human interactions – i.e. in terms of fair play and abiding by the spirit of agreed-upon rules or laws – which is accessible only to those who have had the benefit of certain experiences in childhood or adolescence, though it’s possible that this is the case.

Some experience with sports or games may (conceivably at least) represent a necessary condition for seeing things in the way I describe, but it is certainly not a sufficient condition. For there are and always will be those natural thugs who bring their thuggishness to everything they do, including sport. In the realm of sports and games these people are often feared, but they are (or at least were in my experience) generally despised by players and sophisticated spectators alike.

The failing or failed sportsman is often a devoted sports fan, and (from about the age of ten) I was definitely that. I have autographs of many of the cricketing greats to prove it. But as I grew older, I gradually lost interest. Moreover, changes in the general culture of the game were making it progressively less attractive. Now sports exist for me only to the extent that my exposure to them helped to form me and to the extent that they feature in my personal memories (two quite different things).

Technical and aesthetic factors are important but it is ultimately the human side of things which give sports an abiding interest to players and spectators alike. It helps that the conflicts and dramas usually stop short of anything too distressing. In wars, you have death in battle; in politics moral dilemmas, all sorts of unpleasantness and very little in the way of style or grace or beauty.

Sports and games occupy a protected space. In this and in other ways adult sports – at their best, at any rate – can be seen to represent, like the arts, a kind of benign hangover, an extension of certain aspects of childhood.

What prompted these reflections was coming across, by chance, an old cricketing story from the early 20th century. The story is quite moving, actually, and worth retelling. But, though it probably has some emblematic significance, my original idea – to see it as underscoring “the massive gulf which lies between the sporting culture which characterized the British Empire and the professional sporting culture which dominates today’s world” – was clearly overblown. So scratch that. I’ll just tell the story. Make of it what you will.

First a bit of background to set the scene. Victor Trumper was born in 1877 in the British colony of New South Wales. A natural sportsman and brilliant cricketer, he was much loved and revered, both for his playing and for his natural humility. He is probably best remembered today as the subject of a photograph by George Beldam, taken when the batsman was in full flight at The Oval in London. Entitled ‘Jumping Out’, this image is probably the most famous in the game’s history. Dancing down the pitch, with a huge backswing, Trumper is poised – perfectly balanced – to execute a straight drive.

Trumper was one of the most gifted strokeplayers of all time. The writer A.A. Thomson recorded recollections of one of his great innings: “It was glory, it was wonder. Old men who saw it recall it with tears…” Trumper died of Bright’s disease in 1915, at the age of 37.

As a very young man, leg-spin bowler Arthur Mailey encountered Trumper – his idol – in a club game in Sydney.

“This meeting had been nervously anticipated by Mailey,” writes Chris Waters in an historical piece for the Yorkshire Post. “[M]ight something happen to prevent his hero from playing in the match (“a war, an earthquake, Trumper might fall sick”), or might Mailey’s captain not bring him on to bowl against the maestro, fearing that the youngster might take a terrible pounding?”

But Trumper played, and Mailey was indeed brought on to bowl to him. And Mailey achieved something beyond his wildest dreams – he had Trumper stumped off a perfect googly.

As Trumper walked past Mailey on his way back to the pavilion, he smiled, patted the back of his bat and said, “It was too good for me.”

Mailey recalls in his autobiography that he felt no sense of triumph as he watched the receding figure.

“I felt like a boy who had killed a dove,” he wrote.

36 comments

  1. Thank you for these reflections and for that cricket story, Mark. Let me add something. For kids, games are attractive because they give them a sense of control (something that is usually missing while they grow up). Here is a new world (the playing field) with easy to follow rules (unlike the rules of grown-ups), where fairness (justice) is more likely than in the real world.

    1. > Here is a new world (the playing field) with easy to follow rules (unlike the rules of grown-ups), where fairness (justice) is more likely than in the real world.

      Until you get to the professional level, where everyone tries to get away with whatever they can. That said, I’m a professional sports fanatic.

      1. “Until you get to the professional level, where everyone tries to get away with whatever they can.”

        Not only on the professional level. One of my friends is a cyclist and he’s pretty good. He’s an amateur of course, but even on that level cheating is par for the course.

        I think I would have liked Victor Trumper, but that story about him is rather bland. Being graceful in defeat … When I was young, I played volleyball. I’ve been graceful in defeat too. While I was thinking that we were the best team, only beaten because of statistical fluke; nothing to be graceful about, really. The bastards were lucky, that’s all.

        I just went through the motions. I’ve known people being graceful in defeat who admitted later that they hoped the goddamn guy whom they were graceful to would stumble on the parking lot and brake his wrist.

        It’s ugly, but on the other hand it’s also fascinating. That Victor Trumper story is nice. But to me, it’s a footnote to stories like the Hand of God (Maradona 1986, google it) or the utterly epic story of Lance Armstrong, something worthy of Euripides. The naïve American cyclist arriving the shady world of European cycling, taking PEDs like so many others, and then overplaying his hand, winning the Tour de France seven times and turning into a bully. Indurain – most connoisseurs of cycling think he took PEDs too – knew how to do it. You cheat, yes, but you stay humble and nice. After your fifth TdF, you stop, just like Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx did. Aiming for more would be pure hubris, something Lance didn’t understand (but Chris Froome does, in my opinion).

  2. Mark,
    loved your essay. But I am afraid you are talking to the Philistines who will never understand or appreciate the beauty, elegance and grace of English cricket.

    Will they ever understand the rejoinder, that’s just not cricket, or the double entendre of batting on a sticky wicket! Oops, that was lbw.

    1. Thanks Peter. I was going to say that you always play with a straight bat (meaning behave honestly and decently) but I see that its meaning seems to have changed from that to avoiding answering questions directly.

      1. Thanks Mark.
        I was unaware of the changed meaning. I have always understood ‘playing with a straight bat’ as meaning behaving honestly, decently and sincerely. I find it hard to understand how it could acquire a duplicitous or evasive meaning, although it evidently has.
        Here is one description of playing with a straight bat

        While plying straight, the entire blade of the bat faces the ball.

        – The chances of the ball hitting the bat is highest. Ball rarely misses the bat.
        – Further when the ball hits the bat it will not get edged. Therefore getting cought or missing is rare.
        – Players with straight bat [can]hit shots all round the field. Hence it is very difficult set fielder’s for such players.
        – Players with straight bat will have good defence and play longer. Very difficult to get them out. Rahul became a wall and rarely got out cheaply. He is one of the greatest player India has produced.
        – Perfection of a batsman is attained only if he is playing straight.

        I suspect that the new meaning is heavily ironic.

  3. Like you, I’m not a natural sportsman. In fact, I’m one of the most clumsy athletes who has ever lived.

    Like you, family and school pressured me into playing sports and I hated them. From sports, I only learned the cruelty of those boys who had more talent in sports towards those who had less, namely me. Psychological cruelty, mocking, scorn, and when I was a boy, being good at sports was the only way of gaining the respect from other kids and from most adults, including my parents.

    Watching sports always bored me. I never really was a fan of any team, including my high school teams. When I played sports because of the above mentioned pressure, I just hoped that the ball would not come near me, so that I wouldn’t fumble it and that the game would end as soon as possible. I didn’t give a fuck if my team won or not.

    It wasn’t until very late in my teenage years did I begin to develop a sense of myself as perhaps being brighter or more creative than others kids and that that counted for something. Previously, I felt that I counted for nothing because among my school-mates only sports counted and I had no reference points outside of that. Kids that were good at school or read books were considered “sissies” or “teachers’ pets” and were scorned.

    Since I finished my last physical education requrement in the university, I haven’t played a sport or watched one or followed one in the media.

    I write this not to attack those who enjoy or love sports, but because I suspect that there are others like me and to speak in their or our name.

    1. s. wallerstein

      Your scars are deeper than mine.

      “Previously, I felt that I counted for nothing because among my school-mates only sports counted and I had no reference points outside of that. Kids that were good at school or read books were considered “sissies” or “teachers’ pets” and were scorned.”

      It wasn’t like that for me. Non-sporting or non-athletic boys were not routinely seen in such a negative light by other boys as far as I could tell. It all depends on the school and the broader culture I suppose. The captain of our high school cricket team was (and probably still is) one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Same applies to many other players.

      1. I’m sure that there were nice boy in my school too, but the hegemony of “boys are good at and love sports” was so total that the nice kids didn’t speak up when the non-nice ones mocked the losers, those who were not good at sports.

        As a loser, I shared the prejudices of the hegemonic culture (boys are good at and love sports) so deeply that I myself looked down on and scorned those other boys who like me, were not good at or didn’t enjoy sports. No one had ever showed me an alternative.

        When I got to age 16 or 17, I began to become friendly with some other boys who like me, were not good at and didn’t enjoy sports and were into others things, played music, wrote poetry, knew something about art movies and finally, we formed our own group. I guess that that was the result of becoming more mature.

        1. Why do you make this dichotomy between the artistic/intellectual type vs the sporting type ? I’m both, as are many people I know.

          1. I’m sure that you can be both, especially today, but you couldn’t openly be both in the late 50’s and early 60’s when I was in junior high school and high school. The artistic/intellectual types were scored as “sissies” by kids who played sports and in reaction, those of us who had found a new identity as artistic/intellectual types reacted by seeing the sports stars as “fascist jocks”. That all seems ridiculous 60 years later.

            My account of my childhood relations to sports above is meant to be descriptive, not moralistic.

        2. Yeah, similar experience here. The jocks could be very nasty, and bookish nerds were socially isolated. I fortunately attended an experimental school in my last two years in high school (School Without Walls), there were no jocks, no sports, no ‘cliques,’ it was great.

          (Oh, by the way, there were no grades either, which none of us minded or saw as lack of incentive, which is why I didn’t get involved in that discussion here at EA a while back. In college, of course there grades, but I had learned to pursue learning for its own sake, so I rarely bothered with them. I still ended up with a 3.9 somehow. I didn’t do any sports in college.)

  4. Mark: Lovely essay.

    The great thing about sport is that the average player loses more often than he or she wins. We wouldn’t play if winning was the main point.

    The “googly” is beautifully explained here by two great practitioners of the art: https://youtu.be/Kk1P_91DaBI. Except that they use the other name for it, the wrong’un or wrong one. Amazing that it goes back to Arthur Mailey before WWI.

    For Australians it has been wonderful to see such excellent cricketers as Rashid Khan come out of Afghanistan, and others out of Bangladesh and even Nepal.

    Alan

    1. Alan

      Thank you.

      My personal golden age (not just for cricket) has been shifting further back and is finally settling (I think) in the pre-WW1 era.

  5. Wonderful essay; with important implications for the present era (whether intended or not).

    Cricket is a weird game, from an American perspective; but I think we recognize that there is something civilized and honorable about it.

    A good read, thanks for it.

    1. ejwinner

      Thanks.

      Cricket is weird in various ways. Lots of boring patches. A single test match goes for five days, about six hours of play per day, with time off for lunch (the “luncheon interval”) and a shorter tea interval two hours before “stumps”. Near the end of the day, the batsmen may “appeal against the light” so umpires often had/have to decide if the light is still good enough to play. (Fast bowling could be lethal before protective helmets were worn.) And, if it rains, a lot of sitting around and waiting for the weather to clear.

      But the game is tied to the broader culture and, as that changed, the game changed. New, faster-moving forms emerged and became predominant and changed the way the game was played and followed.

  6. Shakespeare insisted(As you Like It)

    All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;

    As a playwrite, this was his natural idiom but outside the playhouse was a grim reality, all the world was a competition with a playing field designed to be unequal. However, we have slowly, over time, leveled the playing field, introduced a sense of fairness and learned to play by the rules.

    Our concept of sport has reflected this change and so we no longer have unequal contests in the Roman arenas. In this way sport became an important means of cultivating, in the youth, a new sense of fair competition in the outside world, developing at the same time, the resilience and hardiness that would carry them through the inevitable setbacks.

    But things have changed. Money has captured the playing field, both inside and outside the sports grounds, distorting its ethos and rewarding power.

    Shakespeare continues his playwrite idiom, saying(Macbeth)

    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

    The powerful strut, with good reason, to display wealth and status. The weak strut, as the actors do on the stage, in the pitiful pretence that greasepaint and costume create reality. Dan’s interview with Kathleen Stock comes to mind. That leaves the honest and the compassionate. The honest work with determination to create a worthwhile reality. The compassionate do what they can to ameliorate the unfortunate realities of others. And if they are sincere, they shun the showmanship of the stage.

  7. I loved this description of the spirit of the game from Cricket Australia(https://www.cricketaustralia.com.au/about/our-values/spirit-of-cricket).

    Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.

    Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains.

    4. The Spirit of the Game involves respect for:

    Your opponents
    Your own captain and team
    The role of the umpires
    The game and its traditional values

    5. It is against the Spirit of the Game:

    To dispute an umpire’s decision by word, action or gesture
    To direct abusive language towards an opponent or umpire
    To indulge in cheating or any sharp practice, for instance:
    (a) to appeal knowing that the batsman is not out
    (b) to advance towards an umpire in an aggressive manner when appealing
    (c) to seek to distract an opponent either verbally or by harassment with persistent clapping or unnecessary noise under the guise of enthusiasm and motivation of one’s own side

    This is a little ironic because the Wallabies are, shall we say, not foreign to sharp practices.

  8. Couvent2104 alluded to a famous contested goal scored by Diego Maradona in 1986.

    Maradona’s mentality is the antithesis of the cricketing ideal (where batsmen are expected to “walk” if they know their bat has snicked the ball but the umpire misses it).

    “I knew it was my hand. It wasn’t my plan but the action happened so fast that the linesman didn’t see me putting my hand in. The referee looked at me and he said: ‘Goal.’ It was a nice feeling like some sort of symbolic revenge against the English.”

    1. “Maradona’s mentality is the antithesis of the cricketing ideal”

      Yes, I know, but having played competitive volleyball when I was young, I find the Hand of God much more telling about sports than that reaction of Victor Trumper. What I’m going to write now may sound unpleasant, but … Acting like a graceful loser, like Trumper did, is much easier that being a graceful winner. To be a graceful winner, you first have to win, and that’s much, much more difficult than losing.

      What annoyed me a bit in you essay was that “sporting culture which characterized the British Empire”. The British Empire was cruel and exploitative, but it had a nice, fair sporting culture, with men in knitted sweaters swinging bats and spectators enjoying the civility of the Empire. Sports and games occupied a protected space, indeed.

      I mentioned Maradona because such hypocrisy is impossible in football (“soccer” in the US). It’s much too human for that, or at least it was in the 1980s, when Maradona played and before the Big Money from Qatar and Russian oligarchs took over.

      Technically and aesthetically, Maradona was the greatest football player I’ve ever seen (I’m too young to remember Pele). He was better than Cruijf, Messi, Zidane, the two Ronaldo’s, you name it. He single-handedly dragged Argentina to a World Cup in 1986, and Napoli to two scudetti in Italy. He was also a user of cocaine and ephedrine. Occasionally, he could be a thug. He was red-carded for a foul on Batista against Brazil in 1982, after being kicked around viciously by the Brazilians during the match. He scored against England in 1986 with the Hand of God, and then he scored a second time with one of the greatest actions ever seen in a World Cup.

      He combined the best and the worst. He was superhuman and human at the same time, something I can’t say about Trumper, based on your essay. Trumper was, on that occasion, the poster boy for the sporting values of the British Empire. Maradona flatly refused to be anything else than himself, one of the greatest football players the world has ever seen.

      1. couvent2104

        “What annoyed me a bit in you essay was that “sporting culture which characterized the British Empire”.”

        Even though that quote was from a draft which I threw away? I *explicitly* backed away from making sweeping claims — because I had in the back of my mind some knowledge of the darker side of sport in England. (One of my favourite writers, David Storey, played rugby league in his youth.)

        And, of course, there was the notorious “bodyline” series of 1932-3. This was certainly not “men in knitted sweaters swinging bats and spectators enjoying the civility of the Empire” (as you put it).

        From Wikipedia:

        “Of the four fast bowlers in the tour party, Gubby Allen was a voice of dissent in the English camp, refusing to bowl short on the leg side, and writing several letters home to England critical of Jardine, although he did not express this in public in Australia. A number of other players, while maintaining a united front in public, also deplored bodyline in private. The amateurs Bob Wyatt (the vice-captain), Freddie Brown and the Nawab of Pataudi opposed it as did Wally Hammond and Les Ames among the professionals… During the season, Woodfull’s physical courage, stoic and dignified leadership won him many admirers. He flatly refused to employ retaliatory tactics and did not publicly complain even though he and his men were repeatedly hit.”

        You talk about the cruel and exploitative nature of the British Empire and suggest that any sporting virtues associated with it were tainted with hypocrisy. The reality was — I suggest — far more complex than you make out, both on the political and sporting fronts.

        And, by the way, I too was impressed by Maradona’s brilliance.

  9. I have refrained from commenting, because I am working on an essay on sports myself — tennis in particular — and I don’t want to spoil it by saying too much here. I will say, however, that contrary to a number of commenters — and to some extent, the essay — I think sports are among the most important activities we engage in and are crucial to both personal and social development. That does not mean that the benefits they effect cannot be accomplished by other means, but only that for the majority of people, sports are the most effective and beloved ways of doing so. I will be talking about this in my essay, as well as issues that are specific to sports [like tennis] which require tactical sophistication in addition to pure athleticism. I have benefitted from speaking with several philosophers whose main area of research is the philosophy of sport, including Jon Pike in the UK [https://www.open.ac.uk/people/jep34#tab1] and Pam Sailors, in the US, who is a colleague at MSU. [https://philosophy.missouristate.edu/pamelasailors.aspx]

  10. I think sports are among the most important activities we engage in and are crucial to both personal and social development

    Agreed. And there is a lot of evidence to support this assertion. As part of personal development you can include the quite profound health benefits. This particularly true in the case of endurance sports such as distance running.

    Here it is worth mentioning that nowhere is the spirit of the game more in evidence than in distance running. It has a special cameraderie that I doubt can be found in any other sport, though mountaineers may dispute this.

    I read with interest the negative comments. As a child I had Stills Disease and the gloomy prognosis was that I would be crippled for the rest of my life. Improbably, I started to recover and serendipitously I was thown into a public school that was sports mad. I made a tough and painful adjustment to this demanding reality. This was the turning point in my life that shaped me ever since. I discovered that life is hard, life is cruel, life is painful but it has joys and rewards that can only be revealed in their greatest depths by the pain, cruelty and hardship. I am grateful for this experience. I remain a firm believer in the value of sport and especially in the spirit of the game.

    I look forward to reading your essay.

    1. If you’re open to learn healthy lessons from life experiences, you’ll probably learn them seated in the school library or on the playing fields of Eton. If you come to the school library or the playing fields with a sick mind, you’re probably going to leave them with an equally sick mind. I don’t think that there’s anything special about sports which builds character, as is claimed or which helps kids mature, as is also claimed.

      Now since sports is a pleasant experience for most people during one of the most pleasant periods of life, childhood (it wasn’t for me), most people like to claim all kinds of postive properties for sports. I agree that sports are healthy in the sense that they are good exercise, but walking to the public library is also good exercise.

      1. Again, I categorically disagree, and there is quite a bit of social science supporting the point, though I don’t think it is really necessary, given just how widespread and deep the consensus on the subject is. It is one of several things I will discuss in my essay.

        1. I saw enough bullies and cheat in my experience with sports that I’m skeptical. You yourself are often skeptical about the results of social science.

          I’m not claiming that all kids who play sports are bullies and cheats, but lots are. Probably there are also lots of bullies and cheats in the school orchestra, the school dance group, the Young Republicans, the Young Democrats,
          the Young Socialists.

          In fact, lots of social science indicates that personality traits are basically inherited. So there’s social science to support all any viewpoint.

          1. Well, as I said, I don’t really think the social science matters, given the nature of the phenomenon. I mentioned it only in passing.

            I don’t want to publish all the ideas that will be in the essay in the comments, here, so I won’t say more at this point. I’ll just observe that in my view the presence of bullies and creeps is entirely irrelevant to the question, as no one has suggested that sports are some sort of guaranteed cure for a bad personality.

          2. I appreciate that. And one thing I am *not* going to suggest — and which I do not believe — is that sports are somehow *necessary* for any of the benefits I will describe.

  11. SW,
    If you’re open to learn healthy lessons from life experiences, you’ll probably learn them seated in the school library

    I find it hard to believe that you can develop esprit de corps, teamwork, persistence, tolerances of setbacks, hardiness or resilience in the library but I can readily describe how these qualities of the character are developed by sport.

    I am not saying they cannot be developed by other means. What I am saying is the most natural and effective way of developing these characteristics is through competitive play as an adolescent. At the same time it is developing a number of other important facets of our brain-mind-body, such as reaction times, coordination, balance, depth judgement, situational awareness, spatial awareness, nimbleness and responsiveness. This after all is why all mammals play.

    The mind, brain and mody form an integrated whole and we need to attend to all parts for the functional health of the person. The mind is embodied.

    Sport is a form of role playing where we rehearse scenarios and practice our responses, both as individual and as a group, so that we respond fluently to the challenges of life. For role playing to be effective you must have skin in the game so that you are commited deeply enough to make the lessons valuable and lasting. Competitive sport achieves this.

    The whole point about ‘spirit of the game‘ is that you get to practice and develop moral decision making so you are better prepared for many of the challenges of real-world moral dilemmas. This exercises a subset of virtue ethics that is advantageous for the cooperative/collaborative functioning of society. You learn that the virtues are applicable not only to your immediate familiars but can and should be extended further afield to the larger society.

    We need role models to strengthen our development of virtue ethics and some of the cricketing heroes fulfilled this role admirably. Diego Maradonna conspicuously failed this ideal and thus his example is not only shameful but harmful, however viruoso his sporting prowess.

    1. It all depends on what your model of a healthy human being is. You can certainly learn persistance, tolerance of setbacks, resilience and hardiness in the school library. Anyone who has read Joyce’s Ulysses, Heidgger’s Being and Time, Spinoza’s Ethics and Sartre Being and Nothingness has had to develop those qualites.

      Espirit d’corps no, but I don’t belong to any corps nor feel the desire to.

      Teamwork, well, I don’t belong to any team, but in my family I certainly learned to work cooperatively helping my mother with chores in the kitchen and helping my father to fix things, to garden, to shovel the snow, to mow the lawn, etc. Cooperation with others matters to me, but I don’t aspire to be a member of any team qua team. Maybe you do and I have no quarrel with that.

      In life one size doesn’t fit all.

      1. SW,
        What you have described is a pale, lifeless shadow of the real thing. I am reminded of Frank Jackson’s thought experiment of Mary in the monochrome room. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_argument.

        Let’s examine hardiness. Exactly the same argument can be made for resilience, the ability to recover from damaging stress.

        Hardiness can be called the ability to resist damaging stress. If you walk barefoot regularly you expose the sole of the foot to damaging stresses. The foot responds to these repeated stresses by thickening the fat pads on the underside of the foot, by strengthening the tissues, by thickening and hardening the skin. Provided that you allow sufficient time for healing and recovery. Do this for a period of time and you will find your foot has adjusted so that you can walk long distances on rough surfaces without pain or discomfort. Your feet have become hardy.

        No amount of reading or theorizing will ever substitute for this process. In just the same way, hardiness of the mind is developed by repeated cycles of limited over stressing followed by recovery. Also, as in the case of the foot, stress must not be so severe that it causes permanent scarring and it must allow time for recovery to build greater strength. And this is exactly what sport achieves, both in the physical domain and the mental domain.

        You might reply by saying, so what? What does it matter in today’s modern world? By developing the ability to resist and recover from damaging stress more readily we leave more opportunities for joy, pleasure and fulfillment in our lives. We develop greater confidence in ourselves, we become more competent and we dare more, so we achieve more. We are enabled to function more productively in society.

  12. In my last comment I said,
    By developing the ability to resist and recover from damaging stress more readily we leave more opportunities for joy, pleasure and fulfilment in our lives.

    There is another dimension to this. The joy, pleasure and fulfilment are thrown into sharper contrast so that one experiences them with a quality that can only be described as an exquisitely thrilling intensity. This injects enthusiasm into life and is powerfully motivating.

    1. Peter Smith,

      As I said above, in life one size doesn’t fit all.

      I don’t doubt that you’ve found a lifestyle and values which suit the you which has been formed by your genes, your upbringing, your education and your life experience.

      Can’t you see that perhaps I’ve found a lifestyle and values which suit the me which has been formed by my genes, my upbringing, my education and my life experience?

      I detested sports as a child, not only because I was inept at them, but because they did not attract the me that already had been formed by the above mentioned factors and undoubtedly by others. I choose to live a life which suited me just as you choose one which suited you.

      I assume that a good life is one which suits the person, does not harm others, respects and shows consideration for others and does not harm the environment more than necessary. There are countless different ways of living which fill those criterion.

      You seem to assume that the life you live is superior to mine or a model for me to follow.

      I see that your life is good for you and mine is good for me. I accept advice from others of course, but we appear to be on such different paths in life that your advice is more or less irrelevant to me.

      That being said, it’s a pleasure to converse with you and to get to know you a little.

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