Running is not a spectator sport

The people who are the happiest are the people who are most involved. They are the people who will have much to say, much more to contribute than most and they will live the fullest lives.

There are many who will stand with arms folded and will watch life as it happens. This oftentimes happens because of the apparent risks of getting involved. Involvement is a risky business. There is an irony in this however, for what is more risky, is watching life go by from the stands.

The late George Sheehan put it so well; he says that it is easy for the weakest of us to participate as runners, but that it will take the strongest of us to become spectators. “It is only the hardiest of us that can survive the perils of inertia, inactivity and immobility. Only the most resilient that can cope with the squandering of time, the deterioration of fitness, the loss of creativity, the frustration of emotions, and the dulling of moral sense that can afflict the dedicated spectator”.

The seated spectator is not a thinker or even a doer; the seated spectator is simply a knower. Thus unlike the runner, who at any level of competence is left open to seek the truth, the spectator has closed the ring. Thinking has become rigid knowing. The spectator of any sport, unlike the participant, is enclosed in bias, partisanship and prejudice. The spectator will cease to grow.

I am blessed with two daughters. When I explain to them that a courting suitor will only be asked one question; what sport do you play? Of course my question is loaded. And it demands a straight answer. When I ask: what sport do you play, the question is irrelevant, and the answer has everything to do with the lad being a participant, and has everything to do with him being a spectator. All I really want to know of my prospective son-in-law is this; spectator or participant?

Sheehan goes further “Because the spectator cannot experience what an athlete is experiencing, that spectator is seldom a good looser. The emphasis on winning is therefore much more of a problem for the spectator than the athlete.” In the spectator’s growth the detached onlooker has the most need to deal with emotion. For indeed that spectator has everything that a runner wants but cannot get. All the fun of winning and of participation, of the despair of losing, all that is lost on our grey and detached spectator.

The loosing fan with little healthy outlet has much to release emotionally has much to express. So the umpire, the stadium, the unfairness of life and indeed the team has much to answer for in this deprived circumstance. And so it is easier to dry out the drunk, to take the junkie off drugs or to encourage the heavy smoker to kick the habit than it is to live with a sports fan during a long and consistent losing streak.

The spectator is nothing more or less than part of a crowd, a mob, and yes, evens a herd. A spectator descends then to the shallow end of our gene pool. For there it is safe. There you will not drown in life’s challenge. Blaise Pascall says this “The heart has its reasons that the mind knows nothing of” True. – In life as in sport, become a spectator and from there, everything is downhill.

See you on the road!!