Monday, November 1, 2010

Great Enthusiasms

There’s something to be said for doing something.  It’s easy to read Trip Reports, watch movies, pore over guidebooks, and get into animated discussions on internet forums, but it’s hard to actually get out there and do it.  There are obligations to attend to and other people to consider.  Plus you have to get all of your gear ready, wake up early, pack your lunch, drive all the way there and, once you’re finally set to go, it may or may not be good.  You might do horribly.  Your equipment might fail, the weather might not cooperate, and you might get incredibly frustrated, not only because the trip has been a bomb, but because you’ve sacrificed so much just to take the trip, and now it looks like all the sacrifice wasn’t worth it.

For those instances, I am going to try to remember this quote I found by Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
 Exactly.  It’s easy to sit at home, never risking anything.  It’s hard to go out and do something.  But the people who go out and do it, even if they fail, are deserving of our admiration.

Unfortunately, that’s not how things work.  Football players are lambasted every Monday by people who sit at home and watch the game on TV.  “He should have thrown to that guy.” “He should have run through that hole.” Thanks for the input guys.  Your insights are really helping the guy on the field.  Next time you see him, instead of telling him how much you respect his athleticism, make sure you mention how he cost you your Fantasy Game in Week 3.

But at least football is mostly objective.  What about the sports that are determined by judging?  In those sports (Ice Skating, Snowboard Halfpipe, etc.), it is someone’s job to decide if “the doer of deeds could have done them better.”  And it’s not easy, especially when everyone is doing their deeds pretty damn good.  Like at the recent London Relentless Freeze Festival (video behind a subscription wall here).     

Instead of knocking Jon Olsson for “only” coming in second with a 1080 double corked truckdriver, we should be celebrating everyone there for putting on a terrific show, in the middle of a city, at a time when the masses are just starting to get stoked on the upcoming season.  Regardless of what you’re doing on the weekends (soon it’ll be leaf removal for me), we should respect the people who are out there ripping sweet lines and riding sweet singletrack.

And when you’re trying to decide if you’re going to go skiing on some frigid February day, ask yourself if you’d rather have a cold body and timid line choice, or a “cold and timid soul” that never even dared to leave the house.


  1. I agree, well said.

    In my job, I get to help folks plan wilderness adventures by canoe. I can't count how many times I've been asked: "What's it like...?" Referring to such and such a lake, at whatever time of year, when the water levels are like this..., etc. etc.

    More often than not, my answer is: "Well, there is only one way to find out, and I expect a full report!"

  2. I remember how much grief Lance got for coming in third in the TdF two years ago... or even trying this past year. Not a huge Lance fan .... just sayin.