so i was thinking about sports teams today, and it struck me that sports are an incredibly bad influence on people's morals, in the sense that they teach wrong life lessons.

in sports, regardless of how bandwagon-jumping you are, your team will always lose sometimes, especially nowadays. there are only two ways to avoid the sense of disappointment: either not care that much, or accept that your team will lose. it's the only way to remain a functional sports fan.

but, of course, both of these are really bad life lessons, at least from my perspective. not caring is awful; it saps the uniqueness out of many a strapping teenager. if there is one thing i would say is a collective problem with people, it's not caring enough: not caring enough to think about things, not caring enough to perceive things, not caring enough to formulate sentences in an interesting way, not caring enough to learn, et cetera.

accepting defeat seems more benign on the surface, but i think if anything it's more insidious. once you accept that you might fail at something, it feeds back into the first problem -- not caring -- and it also removes some of the creative spark. i think one of the most important tricks to life is learning how to turn success into failure, how to improve bad situations, but with sports that's not possible. things are cut and dried -- your team lost. there's no silver lining. there's no way to continue the story and turn it into success.

there are two components to happiness: finding the lemons, and turning the lemons into lemonade. and both of these require confidence and this persistence of improving bad situations: finding the lemons because you are confident in your ability to find something good, and improving bad situations because you don't give up when the lemons are sour.

come to think of it, there's no reason why these lessons don't apply to competition in general. the basic point here, i think, is that life isn't zero-sum, but competition almost by definition is. if life is zero-sum, then we're trapped in a positive feedback arms race, but fortunately it's not. competition is all over the place, though, teaching us that relative happiness is more important than absolute happiness (where any noun X is substituted for happiness.) this is dead wrong. i wouldn't be surprised if some religion had cropped up to fill this tenet, though it's probably been ironically outcompeted by now.

one of the things that's taking place in modern society is that as there are more and more people on the earth and the same amount of agency, people are feeling a growing sense of helplessness, of inability to controll their future. one vote in america is far less powerful than it was in 1850. there's been a sinister shift in happiness-inducing forms from things we can control to things we can control: television and sports are both completely out of control, yet we depend on them to bring us happiness.

am i wrong? it's possible that life has always been this way: i have no idea what took up the bulk of the leisure time of people in the 1850's (or what brought them happiness), and it might have been equally out of the control. i understand that people had to work harder then, and that a large class of people (slaves) didn't have much control over their happiness. but i can't help but think that these out-of-control situations are contributing to a general torpidity and lack of uniqueness and innovation in the everyday person.

back to the weblog