The Truth of Victory and Tangents on Trivial Things

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IMay 6, 2009

To be or not to be, that is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them.  To die, to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to — 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.  To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream.  Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.  There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life,
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?  who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

--William Shakespeare

I don't say these things because I believe in the 'brute' nature of man or that men must be brutalized to be combative.  I believe in God, and I believe in human decency.  But I firmly believe that any man's finest hour - his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear—is that moment when he has to work his heart out in a good cause and he's exhausted on the field of battle—victorious.

--Vince Lombardi

By now, you the reader must be wondering: What is the purpose of this article?  The answer is quite simple; it is that which separates the winners from the losers.  When the battle is a near equal match in terms of physical tools and knowledge of the game, that which breaks the tie, is more than the simple jingo of who the hungriest to win is.  What does it mean to a person to satisfy a hunger of unknown origin?

Some in sports, like the New York Yankees, grew enormously accustomed to victories and then submitted to the temptation to pilfer "stars" from other teams, on the idea of addition by their opponent's subtraction.  In other words, to pursue not that which makes you stronger, but that which makes your opponent weaker.  The creation however is a collection of soul-less moneygrubbers who disregard the fate of their new team, as long as the checks continue to clear, yet, the fans of the team and sport will clamor to praise a player's greatness, because of some statistic that may as well be the artificial preservatives in food.  Sure, those things will elongate the usability of that product, but will make it much less satisfying once used.

Are you hungry for that, or are you hungry for the adrenaline of the high-stakes in which victory is ultimate glory and loss means, not only must you try again but also strive for the chance just to try again?  Some would rather build their career on the sand and not bother, while others would rather get back up if for no one else except themselves.  Others would rather cash-in on the perceptions of their greatness, and ‘retire’ with the knowledge that the insanity of the sports market will inflate the value of average players in the limelight of a big market, and deflate the value of players lost in the opaqueness of a small market.

A team like the New York Yankees once embodied a great pinnacle in the pyramid of victory as a team that once towered as Goliath at the gate to greatness -- and are now more like Cerberus at the gates to Hades.  That is because the Yankees would develop from within and identify players of need that were in obscurity rather than try to sandbag their opponent at the same time.  Take Jason Giambi for instance.  When the Yankees signed the 2000 AL MVP from the Oakland Athletics after the 2001 season: Did they truly need Giambi at the expense of Tino Martinez?  Not really but hey, Giambi had an edge statistically and was Oakland's best player, yet ultimately,” the RBI Machino" contributed to world titles, so I think then, that the underlying message that the Yankees sent to their players was: even those that win are not good enough. 

At that point then: why does victory matter?  The Yankees said in effect—If you aren’t a star then you don’t deserve to win so get lost, and thus for that, the Yankees have continued to suffer in loss, with a monumentally dysfunctional All-Star team because the Yankees buy star-players on the perception that star-players will produce titles.  I now must go off on a tangential philosophy and then question for the parallel I need to prove my point.  Sometimes, the sum is greater than the whole of its parts.  Other times, the sum is lesser than the whole of its parts.  That is what The Yankees have become, a team bloated by exorbitant contracts of soul-less stars: Does anyone remember what Vladimir Guererro did in Montreal other than the few Expo fans?  I sure don't, but his stats do yet the fact is Guerrero’s stats did not produce victories, which is why the Montreal Expos no longer exist while people do however, remember Bucky Dent’s middle name even though Dent hardly represented a player of statistical greatness.

That was from a time when the Yankees would overcome all perceptions to win, no matter how good an opponent like Boston looked on paper; which is what would reinforce the idea of a "curse."  Not even the Carl Yastrzemski powered Red Sox could overcome "the pop up heard 'round the world," but now the other shoe is on the bloody sock, and Boston is the team that has overcome all perceptions to win.  That is because Boston was unwilling to gut their team for Alex Rodriguez, while the Yankees had no qualms about "starring up" by trading Alfonso Soriano in 2004.  It then follows to ask the tired and trite question: Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?  Or even Derek Jeter.  That is however, what represented the Eli Manning to David Tyree catch in the Super Bowl victory over the Patriots, which is why I propose that the play be referred to as, "The Truth."


Surely, you wonder by now about the juxtaposition of Vince Lombardi to the New York Yankees—two different sports, yet, both represented the true nature of their sport: the desire for competition, regardless of possible loss, against the fiercest opponent and finish victoriously, while alternatively, if you feared the possibility of loss—then you may as well just go home.  If you fear and fathom the idea of getting back up after someone knocks you down, then: why did you even try?  More importantly, as represented by "To Be or Not to Be," the desire "to be," can be found in all walks of life, not just sports.  Yet, the goal of "to be" has been nihilistically boiled down to quantities that supposedly enumerate the qualities of a person: GPAs, portfolios, cars, planes, ships and trucks (which people really suck?), memorabilia, trophies, and so forth. 

Thus, people have submitted to the idea that they can't win if they don't have hallow stats; even though, some of the greatest victories in sports and life were not by stats but by those who became stars for the soul they had to believe they could win.  Sadly, I think that the New York Yankees no longer represent the true nature of what it means to win, but that the Yankees have now become in effect a retirement home for “stars.”  It is not about the quantities produced, but the qualities by which you produced.  Just ask OJ Simpson.  Oh, wait, he is now in prison for trying to steal back the quantities he produced (sorry, OJ but your arrogance took the better of you).  The pursuit of hallow stats would also explain the abuse of steroids.  And the homeless are no longer the only panhandlers on Wall Street.

With that said, I unexpectedly gained some respect today for beleaguered Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich in his defiance to back down from the challenges in front of him.  Surely, Blagojevich has been knee-deep in corruption in his tenure, at least though; he has the courage to go down swinging.


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