Archive for March, 2010

Bullshit Explanations for Greatness

Posted on March 3, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’m not sure why, but I guess people just love sitting around and rationalizing why they or someone else is good at something. David Brooks might not be the craziest or most self-righteous in his explanation for why Norway always excels in the Winter Games, but he does win the award for weakest argument.

After retelling the amazing survival story of Jan Baalsrud, he closes with this statement.

This astonishing story could only take place in a country where people are skilled on skis and in winter conditions. But there also is an interesting form of social capital on display. It’s a mixture of softness and hardness. Baalsrud was kept alive thanks to a serial outpouring of love and nurturing. At the same time, he and his rescuers displayed an unbelievable level of hardheaded toughness and resilience. That’s a cultural cocktail bound to produce achievement in many spheres.

Sorry Finland and Sweden. Your story isn’t as “retell-able” apparently. I’m not sure why Brooks is getting into this really. Is he saying that Norway has a unique sense of community that other nations don’t share or is this a weak pitch for more civility in the US?

It doesn’t matter. The main point is that I’m getting pretty tired of worn-out, nationalistic excuses and explanations for why people or countries excel in certain sports. And every nation does it, but Korea does it the best.

If I wanted to get into it, I could tell you why Koreans are good at science, handling spicy food, economics and math. They’re all absurd. In fact, I have only read one sports explanation that made sense to me. Of course, it was from The Korean on “Why Koreans are good at golf.

“…it’s a game where you can play in a limited space.”

That’s reasonable and doesn’t invoke some historical or genetic excuse or explanation. What I think is interesting is that Koreans seem to have used all of their faux-reasoning capital on archery and golf because when Chosun Ilbo has an article titled, “Lee Seung-hoon’s ”Miracle’ a Result of Hard Work and Effort”, maybe they’re changing their tune.

Being a champion takes work. That’s it. Spare me the bullshit explanations for greatness.

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