Thinking of Yourself, Less

Time to plant.

I remember when humility was a virtue, a quality that most people felt was praiseworthy and useful. We had no trouble distinguishing it from humiliation, which was a shameful condition visited upon us by others. Oh, we liked it when the braggart was forced to “eat humble pie” (sometimes, even, when it was us who had to eat that bitter confection), but mainly we felt that baking that pie and nibbling at it regularly was not just good medicine but often a sweet and sustaining way to eat.

Here’s today’s question: does a humble writer try to increase his page views by shamelessly flogging his ‘brand’? (“Duh, of course!”) Or to put it another, less JH.comAllTheTimeHeyEnoughAboutMeWhatDoYOUThinkOfMyWebsite?- centric way, how can we use the incredible connectivity and expressive potential of social media without becoming insufferably dull and incurably self-absorbed? I don’t know, and mainly err on the side of Luddism and avoidance.

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According to Albert

I came across a brief and simple meditation on the virtue of humility this morning. As ammunition for my argument that you can find spirit everywhere if you’re willing to look, I’ll point out that this exercise in quiet virtue was found in the on-line version of Sports Illustrated magazine. It was an interview with the Cardinals’ monstrously good batsman, Albert Pujols. Alongside other things I’ve read about the great Dominican, I think we can take this straight up, no grain (or mitt-full) of salt required.

Albert’s Law:

As long as you don’t get caught up thinking you are better than the game, or you think that you’re better than everybody else, as long as you don’t get caught up in that, you’ll be fine. If you stay humble, you’re going to survive to play this game — if you stay healthy — for 15-20 years. That’s what I want to do. Stay humble before God. Stay humble before my teammates. And just have fun out there and play the game.

It might not sell too much beer or get a Manly Personal Fragrance named after him, but it makes it all the easier to appreciate Mr. Pujols.

How do you do it, Mr. Nash?

How do you explain a kid from Victoria who doesn’t just build NBA castles in the air but also manages to “put foundations under them”, as Thoreau advised? How does a guy go from barely holding his own playing pickup ball as a freshman at the University of California-Santa Clara to being two-time Conference Player of the Year? (And, in a Sports Illustrated feature, being labelled “Little Magic” by Mr. Johnson himself.) What changes that fine college player from a three-year professional backup to an NBA All-Star? And what took Steve Nash, in his 30s, from “nice little player” to two consecutive Most Valuable Player trophies, something that Larry and Wilt, Kareem and Michael have done, but that only Magic had ever done from the point guard spot?

I just re-read Jack McCallum’s SI feature “Point Guard from Another Planet” from the January 30 edition. The best quote came from Nash’s younger brother Martin – clearly a superior athlete to Steve – who asked, “How do you explain where drive comes from? That Steve drive – who knows?” We just have to shrug our shoulders and acknowledge the ridiculous: this double-MVP coup is the greatest individual athletic achievement by any Canadian, ever. And I include Number 99, the one that Nash most resembles in his intuition, his modest physique and subtle way of dominating his sport. Nash won’t have Gretzky’s astonishing career numbers – it is likely that nobody in any sport ever will – but he is swimming circles around enormous fish in a much bigger pond than the Great One played in.

And never mind Canadian accomplishment: this is one of the most astonishing athletic trajectories we’ve ever seen. To come from a basketball backwater and join the pantheon of basketball greats, in a time when the game has a world profile second only to soccer, is incredible. To improve upon that first MVP performance the following season, with his team having endured injury to its other star and wholesale changes, is just plain silly.  Giftedness in anything is, as Martin Nash knows, a pretty mysterious thing, but his big brother is leaving behind some tremendous clues.

 Size and strength are nice, but not essential.
“Athletic ability” is not stored only in the legs.
 Good eyes. Sure hands. Balance. Imagination. These are athletic qualities, too.

 And they still don’t tell the whole story.

 How do you respond to adversity? What happens when you fail?
 Do you know how to learn? Do you have a plan that you never lose sight of?

 Steve Nash put it like this back in January: “Most guys somewhere along the line will meet an obstacle they aren’t willing to clear….They will not keep on going. I kept on going.” Simple as that, eh?

Sure it is.