Monday, March 18, 2013

The Tyranny of the Moment

Like many American males, I love sports, and watch my favorite teams almost obsessively. (Especially the Denver Broncos.) I justify this mild obsession in many ridiculous ways, one of which is that sports often serves as a mirror of society as a whole.
One of the biggest trends in sports that society far too frequently mimics is the trend of living in the moment. For the narrative in sports is always the present. Rarely is the past dwelt upon, and the future is rarely considered by sports fans. 
The obsession of the sports fan for immediate victory is almost legendary. This team is now in a 20-game winning streak. That team is 8-8 now, despite the fact it won the Super Bowl last year. Fans are a notoriously impatient bunch, calling for the heads of excellent coaches after one losing year. One fluke play can make the difference between a championship and a heartbreaking loss, between a great year and a nightmare year.
Of course, in sports, championships are not won overnight. Bad teams go through rebuilding years. (Some teams, like the Raiders, go through seemingly eternal rebuilding phases. No, I am not sorry for that gratuitous shot at that useless team.) Teams often have what are called windows - periods when they must win championships before their aging veteran stars retire. Good teams are often forced to build their championships in lean years, by getting rid of overpriced, mediocre players and by stocking up on young talent. Rabid fans will complain about immediate losses, but teams which placate their fans and shoot for success by overspending will attain mediocrity at best.
The tyranny of the now inherent in sports is similar in many respects to the attitude of society today. We want this expensive toy, and we want it now. I'll sin now, and take the consequences later. If we don't get a boatload of funding for this inefficient project, people will lose their jobs. And so on and so forth.
Thought is rarely given to the future and towards what must be done to survive in the long term. Short-term gratification is the order of the day. And we build up debt or bad habits or bad memories until we collapse under their weight. We mortgage the future for a few moments in the present.
It is rarely, if ever, the quick change that makes a long-term impact. Championships are built upon the slow, steady build-up to success; success in human endeavors is also founded upon determined emphasis on virtue. And the path to societal suicide is rarely a quick, spectacular downfall; it is the coagulation of a confluence of mistakes. 

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