Thursday, June 13, 2024

Jerry West

If you're not a sportsball fan, you might never have heard of Jerry West.

He was a basketball legend, first at West Virginia, then with the Lakers in the NBA. His nickname was "the logo" because the NBA logo is based on him. After his playing career ended, he was the GM of the Lakers for many years.

Everyone spoke of Jerry West with utmost respect. 

They also mentioned that had a dark side. Tortured.

He's possibly the best example of toxic competitiveness who ever existed. Many times in interviews, he'd mention that he never remembered his best games, or championships. What he remembered, over and over again, were the games he'd lost.

It was sad, to hear him this way. It was easy to hear the genuine pain in his voice. He was incredibly successful, by any standard, but he was also haunted, and the ghost was in charge.

Being competitive is fun. I'm competitive. And I occasionally still regret the semifinal match I lost in the tennis district championships--in high school (seriously, how did I lose to that kid?). It doesn't eat away the inner lining of my being, though. 

Eli is fiercely competitive, but he's able to let it all go. He's never haunted by mistakes, or losses. He just learns what he can and moves on. 

It's the dark side of competitiveness that's frightening. Pro athletes, in particular, as if getting to that level required a sacrifice of their reason. As if competing at the highest level requires obliterating the boundaries between competition and the rest of their lives. 

That's when it's toxic.

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