Monday, April 1, 2013

the last book I ever read (Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, excerpt eleven)

from Life on the Run by Bill Bradley:

The other Knicks and I got to our present positions of celebrity through similar routes. There are many encouragements for a boy to be an athlete while in high school. The good athlete is popular among his classmates, but the star athlete develops a reputation outside high school. Townspeople, adults, single him out for attention and interest. Teachers might favor him even if unconsciously. Growing up, when most young people struggle to define their tastes and develop their own sense of right and wrong, the star athlete lies protected in his momentary nest of fame. The community tells him that he is a basketball star. For the townspeople his future is as clearly outlined as his record-book past. They expect him to become an even greater athlete and to do those things which will bring about the fulfillment of what is wholly their fantasy. The adolescent who receives such attention rarely develops personal doubts. There is a smug cockiness about achievements, or a sincere determination to continue along a course that has brought success and praise. The athlete continues to devote his energies to sport. Compared with the natural fears and insecurities of his classmates, he has it easy. His self-assurance is constantly reinforced by public approval.

The athletes who succeed in making college teams have the high school experience duplicated on a grander scale. The few who excel on university teams find that admiration comes then, not from high school friends and adult family friends, but from the national press and from adults they have never met. They begin to see that they can make a good living simply by playing the sport. Self-definition again comes from external sources, not from within. While their physical skill lasts, professional athletes are celebrities—fondled and excused, praised and believed. Only toward the end of their careers do the stars realize that their sense of identity is insufficient.

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