I was watching 60 Minutes last weekend and a report about a new “sport” called Free Diving, that involves diving under the water as deep as one can go on one breath was featured. I seem to remember this being a children’s sport many years ago, “Hey Ma! Watch what I can do!”, despite many a mother’s chagrin…but I digress.
However, today, thanks to the indomitable spirit of human something or other, thousands of adult humans are trying this new “sport” out every year. The American champion went down 236 feet on one breath which required holding his breath for over 3 minutes. Upon surfacing he died…and the crowd went wild…with grief!
To me, this is a sport like hunting is a sport, or gladiating (is that even a word?) What is the human fascination with having or with giving someone(thing) else a near death experience? Or an actual death experience?! And how is this classified as sports? I even have trouble with marathon running because it was invented by a brave soul who was running to deliver a message that may have saved other people’s lives and upon completion of his “race” he died! And the Greek’s went wild…with grief!
And that is why today, humans gather in large groups and run exactly 26 miles and 385 yards, to apparently honor one death experience with a near death one of their own. That makes sense to you, doesn’t it?
Anyway, in the 60 minutes piece the current world record holder was asked what the human limit in Free Diving is or would be, since he was about to dive over 400 feet on one breath, and his answer was, “There is only one way to find out.” And what he meant by that was…you guessed it…another potential Marathon-like distance of death for humans to challenge ad infinitum.
But here comes the best part of the story. The world record holder made his record breaking dive and swam over 400 feet down and held his breath for over 4 minutes while reaching his mark, grabbing a tag to prove that he did it and then returning to the surface…alive! To really prove that he did it! Hurray! He won! And the crowd went…
Nope! Because here is apparently what makes this new craze a sport. Upon his return to the surface he is supposed to remove his goggles, make the OK sign with his fingers and then say, “I’m OK!” to the judges (of course there must be judges!) (Why?…I don’t know…Third base!)
But what he did was make the OK sign, say, “I’m OK” and then he took off his goggles. Wrong order! He’s disqualified! Just like he’d never done it and been there and back again! But, wait! He still has the tag from over 400 feet down where no one has ever gone before!!!! Doesn’t that count for something???
Sorry…it’s a sport after all, remember? There was a flag on the play! So he has to do it all over again. Sorry, Pheidippides, you didn’t say “May I?” so you have to go back and do it all over again…”don’t worry, we’ll wait”. Of course the ancient Greek legend of Marathon was…wait a minute…did I just say legend? Yes, that’s right it’s just a legend but legend has it that Pheidippides’ famous last words were, “We won!” And the crowd went wild with happiness!…and grief!
Oh Pheidippidides you Phool! Oh ancient Greeks you phreaky philosophers! Is this what makes us human after all? The irony of taking something that should be pleasurable…like living…and finding the ultimate, absolute misery in it? Is this what separates the animals from… the human…animals? I don’t know about you but regular animals seem to be enjoying themselves and their lives for the most part…that is whenever us humans aren’t figuring out ways to take the fun out of life for them. Is there any wonder at us trying to take the fun out of it for ourselves too?
So, dear Socrates, If this is sport, please pass the hemlock!