Monday, November 17, 2008

Making it Look Hard

He makes it look so hard!

A colleague recently reminded me of this observation I made during a basketball game long ago, referring to the free throw shooting 'style' if I may here briefly abuse that word, of the legendary Shaquille O'Neil.

My friend remembered this telling remark because, he said, it was to him a fitting metaphor useful for describing many forms of human behavior that transcended mere sports. Of course, professional sport is always a good metaphor for life, as we all know from advertisements and any corporate training sessions for self-esteem and team building that you've been unfortunate enough to endure, but wait, for the message is not always positive.

As usual, I am ahead of myself. The metaphorical implications notwithstanding, the actual incident was indeed 'a sports moment' if you will. Now, I am not a basketball fan, be advised lest you think I routinely watch the NBA, which I do not, of course, but I am also a not-so-closeted sports junkie and trvia collector and thus have the usual smattering of knowledge of the dilletant; enough to know a little something about whatever game, match or race is on the television in the restaurant kitchen on a given night.

Now this is usually football, of both the American and World varieties, which I still stubbornly and un-politically correctly refer to as 'soccer' but we watch any sport. Tennis, golf, horse racing, even, gulp, NASCAR. This all 'all sport all the time' even includes Ultimate Fighting Champions, which, to me, is simply at the level of nude mud wrestling, there's no other way to say it. It's obviously staged, in the manner of boxing and wrestling. Both of these testosterone-laden types of contests between sweaty men simply turn me off for that reason alone; sadly, for cable anyway, the entertainment value of boys wrasslin' just isn't up there on the charts for me. Of course I see plenty of that in the NFL, which has it's butt-patting male moments, to be sure, but I accept that because is still my favorite sport.

But to watch Shaquille O'Neil attempt a free throw in the course of a game, especially a playoff game, where the consequences for failure are magnified, is just plain painful. I mean, it looks like it hurts, the way he strains to put the ball up in a simple ten to twelve foot arc. Not to brag, or anything, but this is even something I can do. In fact, though I am still more likely to miss than make it on any given try, I would bet that over the course of even ten free throws, I could at least tie, if not beat Shaquille. Realistically, your thirteen-year-old girl cousin could beat him at HORSE in the driveway if he were to show up for a pick up game one Sunday afternoon while you are working around the house. She might not even get to HOR before he dinks the iron and backboard enough times to spell out FAILURE.

But my intent here is not to trash Shaquile, who could not only outplay me at basketball but likely every other sport as well, to say nothing of the damage he could inflict with but a tap of his little finger should I go around publicly calling him out for his lousy free throwing ability. Nor is it my intent to brag about my own prowess, obviously as one may not argue in favor of an absence of such an ability, but I do feel the point that my friend made about how some people manage to take the easiest things in the world and make them look hard is worth considering, especially since I seem to be one of those most afflicted by this degenerate condition.

We have all heard how some people make hard things look easy, by virtue of their talent, hard work or both, but have you ever considered how many people make the easy things look hard? In fact, we'd be hard pressed, any of us, to claim that this was not us, every day, making a mess out of what should have been an easy ans straightforward task. I know I do this often enough, but I tend not to notice it so much in myself as in others. For those things that I find hard--like math, and finishing task around the house, for example--I realize now that it is because I make them so, not necessarily because the tasks are hard in and of themselves.

So, it would seem that the biggest stumbling block would be my own preconceptions and tendencies to over-analyze my life and work. Introspection can be a good thing, but I have to learn to balance it with action. In other words, simply getting something done every day shouldn't be all that hard. Wish me luck, mockingbird.

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