RE-ANIMATION – SPONTANIETY AND CREATIVITY

The responses from my last two blog offerings, outlining the ineptitude, ignorance and arrogance of the current leadership of USA Track and Field in their handling of athletes’ interests and rights, has engendered a great deal of diverse ego boosting. I have been urged, with some urgency, to continue the clarification and criticism, but there are recent developments, that if followed to their logical conclusion(s), will create a major shake up at the highest levels of the organization and hopefully start us down a more productive path of athlete support. So lets see if these people can be as self righteous and self critical of their own misdeeds and unethical behavior  as they insisted that Marion Jones and Lashawn Merritt had to be as they were kicked to the curb by the very people who should have “had their back”.    

 

However, if the truth be known, something entered in to the mix before I sat down at the computer that totally soured me on scrutinizing these poor souls who simply do not “get it”, but smugly rest content that they are right and the rest of us are just plain uninformed and only they have the right to make decisions in the “best interest” of the rest of us in track and field. What happened was my watching an HBO documentary called MASTERCLASS. This particular segment dealt with Michael Tilson Thomas ( MTT ), classical musician extrodinaire, and conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the New World Symphony Orchestra. He was shown interacting and briefly tutoring three young prodigies ( cello, violin, piano ). The whole process was very intriguing and enlightening on several levels, however, there was one thing he said that really threw me for a loop coming from a classical musician. As you know, in classical music, as opposed to jazz, the composer basically sets out everything to be played, and even uses certain words to describe how, and in what mood and manner, the piece is to be played. It is assumed that the performer essentially has little or no room for personal expression outside of what the composer indicated was demanded and required to maintain the integrity of what was written.

 

In direct opposition to this assumption, he advised the three prodigies that they needed be aware of the fact that they had to bring something of themselves to the music and not simply lay back and rely on the genius and brilliance of the composer to maximize the impact and message of the music. He advised them to re-animate the music and bring some spontaniety to it. Since the space allowed for this to happen is so small, the need for it was even greater and the talent needed to do this was even greater still. It made me harken back to something I tried to communicate to some hurdlers. I advised them that it was my job to define and lay out for them the hard science involved in their event. It was their job to understand and grasp what was required of them and use their talent to access and implement the science through their mental and phsyical gifts to the point that what they did became the definition of the event.

 

For me there are several athletes that were so good at what they did with their talent in their events, that they became the actual definition of their event. For example, when he was at his best, Allen Johnson was not only the best male hurdler in the world, he was actually the definition of the event. When you thought 110 meter hurdles on a conceptual level, you thought Allen Johnson. When I think middle distance running ( 800 – 10,000 ) I think Mary Decker. She was so good that she actually not only dominated, she defined, and at her best, was the actual definition of the event. The same can be said for Kip Keino and Jim Ryan at their best. These athletes were able to achieve this status because as MTT advised, they were able to re-animate something as cold and arbitrary as science and physical mechanics. They did this because they were able to bring a certain self-awareness and spontaneity to something, that in others, was merely repetitive and robotic. The result was that on a very gut level they were creative, and this creativity manifested itself as a kind of special charisma that each brought to their event, themselves and ultimately the sport.

 

I have witnessed this re-animation in several forms and not even recognized it for what it was/is. I remember in 1969 going to Moscow with the U and we were taken to the Bolshoi the very famous Russian ballet establishment. I remember the ballet performed that night was SWAN LAKE. I was immediatley caught up in the fact that it appeared to me that the good male dancers were able at the top of their leap to hold themselves aloft for a magic instant. For that briefest of interludes, they defied gravity’s pull on them and in so doing they were able to re-animate and create at teh same time. 

 
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