I don’t consider myself a sports fan, at least in the way that culture defines a sports fan. I don’t have the cable TV packages, the little flags in the windows of my car, I’ve auto-drafted for every fantasy league that a friend has peer pressured me into. I don’t hate other cities, groups of people, or animals just because they represent the opposing side in a game. I’ve never painted letters on my chest or lost a friend over a bad call. Maybe this has to do with my lack of interest in the minutiae of sport, the daily details, the “Moneyball,” statistics that create the backbone for all the prattle that defines the lion’s share of the 24-hour sports discourse. I’ve go my own minutiae to deal with.
However, I do like sports, because sports give me a chance to witness the physical manifestation of human beings elevating beyond themselves; in its best moments sport does for the immediate and visceral what art does for the intimate and contemplative. These are the experiential spikes in the slightly wavy timeline of the banal everyday. I think this is why sports are so popular, why we watch the highlight reels, why people gather around the television on Sundays. To experience something special.
Of course these special moments aren’t under the strict purview of sport; rather, sport is a readymade/instant-bake module, a petri dish where we can easily take account of something magnificent, creating the potential for us to experience something magnificent simultaneously with the thing happening as it happens. But this is such a modern experience. Moments of grace have not always been simulcast into the living rooms and bars of the world. Word of mouth, scrolls, the printing press–vectors of communication that necessarily require editorialization, a third party, a “version.” The communal nature adds an element of plasticity to each story told, e.g. the fish getting bigger and bigger with each retelling. And while this can be used effectively to create a narrative more impactful than any visual moment of experience, we have also been trained to be skeptical of hyperbole, of gratuitous editorial, because of the sheer magnitude of stories that we must navigate on a daily basis. To such a degree that the amazing has become watered down, tepid, and accepted.
Guys… thanks for sticking around.
I wanted to lay out the thoughts above because I want you to know that I am aware of how EPIC’d the world has become, how AMAZING–a word that is meant to represent astonishment and a bewilderment, something we can’t fully grasp–has been watered down to such a degree that it has lost almost all of its value; “I found a parking spot, amazing; the ground over here is below my feet, amazing; ice is cold, amazing,” etc. Misappropriation at its finest. Still these are the right words to use when used correctly. So here goes.
“ERIK NOHLIN HIKED ACROSS THE SIERRAS WITH A BIKE ON HIS BACK AND IT WAS AMAZING, EPIC, INSPIRING, FANTASTIC, JAW DROPPING, AND ASTOUNDING.”
We last saw Erik on day three of our trip. We left him contemplating retreat, dressed in all black, as per usual, atop a granite boulder wrestling with the task at hand. “In my mind, I just see Mono Hot Springs, that’s all I can think about, I have my mind set.” He made this statement in the midst of a snow flurry as we discussed our options through the pine branches of the trees in which we had ensconced ourselves. We talked until we were too cold to want to continue, the group had made up its mind, Erik had made up his mind. Our minds were not thinking the same thing. We retreated to a lower elevation, set up camp by the lake, made some food, went fishing, and from time to time looked up towards the pass, wondering out loud if he was still considering his options, if he had continued, if he would make it, if we would need to call search and rescue. It grew dark and we knew he had gone for it.
Two days later as the crew pulled up to Mono Hot Springs, there he was. HE FUCKING MADE IT! And when we saw him he was wearing his victory speedo no less! So here’s the thing. While I continue to struggle with my own failure, I can revel in his accomplishment. Here in the wild, here outside the petri dish, in a real setting, right in front of my eyes I experienced the astounding, that human elevation feeling, the knowing and experiencing that great things can happen, an education in what’s possible.
“This is a beautiful feeling, this is the transcendent experience that, when you bypass all the other garbage that informs our life, is the reason to do anything. To do man, to do something, to make it possible. Erik did and it was epic.”