Thursday, December 6, 2007

the mind of the upper echelon athlete

this extremely illuminating piece about Dirk Nowitzki's Chapelle-esque retreat to Australia after the Mavs' first round playoff exit got me thinking again about the nature of thought in sports. it seems to me that professional athletes are better off not being particularly intelligent, or at least intelligent in an intellectually curious, humanist sort of way. the tendency of such people is to over analyze things or be almost too aware of their surroundings. the professional athlete, on the other hand, while needing to be aware of and react to situations, cannot overthink, and has to rely much on instinct. Nowitzki seems to be a well-rounded, smart guy, which makes me wonder about his ability to truly succeed in the NBA, to become a champion. it's not that he could "choke" in the commonly understood definition of the term. rather, it's a matter of too accurately feeling the burden of your surroundings and position. a normal, super high-level athlete may be aware of these crunch time expectations, but only of his responsibility for them, not necessarily their full weight and import and the true consequences thereof.

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