The only thing I want to see are Paralympic bloopers. I want to see a Paralympic fail reel. The agony of defeat for people with no feet.
These days I am making friends with my libertarian sentiments. The reasons are manifold but I won't get into them right now. Understand, however, that the motivations for this idea come from that liberartian network of neurons in my political brain.
I've been watching the Tour de France this week, and it is a stunning testament to the, dare I say it, triumph of the will. I've always considered it the world's most competitive sport, in which hundreds of men race through a fortnight of greuling trials and many hundreds of miles only to be separated by mere seconds at the finish.
Having been a mediocre cyclist, I have been there. In my 20s I possessed almost precisely the kind of ideal body for cycling. 5 foot 10. 167 pounds. Genetically big calves, great lungs and idiotically steely determination. Socially I thought the idea of cycling 100 miles with a bunch of cyclists to be ridiculous. So I stayed mediocre. But I got close enough to the sport to understand both its appeal and its challenges. The challenge is to push your body to the very limit of its endurance, to get on the bike and stay on it, to pace yourself and then punish yourself, pace and then punish again - to the point at which you can begin to hate yourself for eating a small banana instead of a large one. And.. well, that's the appeal too. Being a cyclist changes how you look at people's bodies.
If you actually believe in the greatness of the human spirit and you have an idea of what people are capable of, you cannot fail to be impressed by what the world's greatest atheletes do. Well, except for swimming. Swimming is catatonically boring. The only good thing about swimming is that it enables surfing, because surfing is awesome. But sports are changing as the human body is changing and progressively getting healthier and our ability with machines are changing. That's why we have the X Games. We are missing what great swordsmen were like. We are missing the athleticism of the ancient warrior, but we are gaining the athleticism of the motocrosser, the BMX stunter, the wakeboard aerialist. In our lifetimes, the improvement of women's gymnastics has been stunning. I expect to see a double back summersault on the balance beam in my life, which in the 70s was the most difficult trick in floor exercises.
We are often told however, that there is some extra measure of courage demonstrated by athletes with missing body parts. I don't buy it. A man who has half a right leg who runs a marathon on a fitted spring cannot possibly be facing greater fear or danger in his event that that which caused his crippling.
What impresses me when I watch videos like those of Andrew Dickey is the implicit knowledge that there are great failures to match every triumph. You fail more often trying front double pikes from the 1 meter springboard in practice than you score on the dives at a meet. You look at that hill and you shift down into the girly gears more often than you stand up and keep up the bike's momentum. I'm sure Dickey has more scars than a few, just like Travis Pastrana has broken so many bones that he approaches Evel Kneivel. I confess that I'm more impressed by people who wreck perfectly healthy bodies in search of sports perfection than those who start with wrecked bodies in search of sports mediocrity. It's the old saw about excellence vs achievement.
Getting my grandmother to stop smoking was an achievment. Keeping ex-felons obeying the law is an achievement. Two year olds tying their own shoes is a remarkable achievement. I think the guy who plays Mortal Kombat with his face, because he has no thumbs, is a real champion, not that anybody much cares about Mortal Kombat. I mean what happens if you fail beyond embarrassment? What I want to see is the fat kid stand up after crashing through the fourth hurdle in the 110 meter event. That's remarkable. What I want to see is the anorexic shotputter dislocate her shoulder. What I want to see is the one-legged skateboarder bail on the rail. Wheelchair basketball? No. Goalball? No. Boccia? No. I want to see blood and guts.
I know that we are in evolutionary times when it comes to sport. I also know that a lot of the sports we have evolved to popularity are often not athletic in the least, some border on the merest of cognitive pursuits. So we have time and bandwidth for a lot more events. I think the man who gets up on a bucking bull is courageous and the one-armed man who does the same thing is slightly more. Because we know the bull mostly wins.
So. Show me the slo-mo fails. That's what I want to see. Real Drama.