The spectacle that’s called the Winter Olympics is soon to start in Vancouver and that got me to thinking. Why is it that athletes are still setting world records? And it seems that they are doing it with regularity. I’d like to see the statistics; are world records still coming at the same rate as they did many years ago?
If they are, I can only come up with two plausible answers. The first one sounds preposterous. The species is becoming better, stronger and faster. Maybe even one day man might be the fastest land animal. Sounds ridiculous at least to my first impression. What could possibly cause this? Maybe it’s something like the height thing. You know, the statistics prove that on average children will grow to be taller than their parents. Maybe that’s because of better nutrition. Also, at least some sports heroes are breeding with each other. This can be a standard breeding procedure to get a better species. Cows for instance have been bred to produce more and more milk. It works. There is quantitative evidence. It’s just that most times, world record holding athletes are not from successful athlete / successful athlete parents.
The other possibility is that successful athletes are slackers. Don’t get me wrong, I know how hard it is to work out and train constantly. In that regard I have high esteem for successful athletes. But do they do enough? It seems to me that they might be slowing down a bit in this regard after they are deemed successful. A great proportion of their life is taken up with a single minded purpose to be the best in the world. Even this might not be enough for some. To prove they are the best they may try for a world record. But what happens once they achieve this? They have nothing left to beat. Do they then say ‘enough with the drive I’m good enough and now want what the world can offer’? If another athlete can beat their record 5 years later why couldn’t they have trained that much harder for a record that can’t be beaten?
I personally think these successful athletes do slack off after becoming “the best to date”. Maybe that single minded pursuit of their dream has left their life lacking in other ways. Maybe best to date is enough for them. But I propose that those same athletes would have had more left and could compete with the athletes of a later time. Maybe it’s just the lack of goals left after you get a world record. Could this say something about the human spirit?
Maybe the rest of us are slackers too. It might be less obvious than in sports but could be true. The most obvious to me is in the field of rock music. I think some of the fans are like me and could care less about the age of the performer and only about the music. But it has become obvious to me that as an artist grows older, eventually their music seems not as good. It can take a long time, sometimes twenty years or more but to me it has happened to every artist I know about. And in rock music, the artists cannot use age as an excuse, they don’t have to deal with being unable to perform because of body changes like the athletes do. Either there are negative brain changes as we age or these rock musicians are slackers, too.
Maybe there is something to the expression you have to stay hungry. Success seems to eventually lead to slacking. Maybe we as a species need to try to rise above the herd more often and for longer.