Watching sports is good for you. Why? Because the average person would get killed if they stepped into the ring with Mike Tyson or tried to tackle Chris Johnson. Which is why sports is good for you. Okay, let me be more specific.
Watching sports allows you to release aggression that hundreds of years ago would have been used to murder someone. But now you get to release it by watching sports. By rooting for a team that means a lot to you because you’re from that region or you like their championship pedigree or you can relate to one of the athletes…you get to be part of that team. The same feelings tribes had hundreds of years ago when they took over another tribe’s village. But no one gets hurt (except at that recent Dodgers/Giants game).
The Olympics were invented for the sole purpose of reducing wars against nations. Countries compete instead. In organized competitions called sports. The best nations win. And don’t kill each other for it. Sports is part of the reason society has gotten this far. By repressing these instincts. But all society can do is repress them. The instincts are alive and well. If these instincts are not used for sports, they come out in other ways. Sometimes, against you.
Now BEAR WITH ME. I’m going to say the B word. Book. You know those printed blocks of wood with printed words on it? There is a book called “The 33 Strategies of War” by Robert Greene. The book uses historical examples from history’s greatest generals like Napoleon, Patton and Tsun Tzu to illustrate how to deal with adversity. How to not panic under duress. How to get the best out of yourself in extremely stressful situations. Much like in sports.
Problem is, whenever I recommend the book to someone, they think it’s too aggressive, too cutthroat, or even cruel. I think it’s an enlightening pamphlet into daily living. Just like you don’t learn martial arts to go out and break someone’s nose just for fun. You master it for your own self-protection and confidence. The very things that “The Strategies” and sports can teach us.
In my effort to more richly understand “The 33 Strategies of War” and demonstrate that there are great lessons to learn from sports, I will break down “The 33 Strategies” into examples taken from recent sports history. Based on events, seasons, dynasties I have witnessed in my lifelong obsession with sports. At the same time, I will prove that “The 33 Strategies of War” is one of the most enlightening books I have ever read.
DECLARE WAR ON YOUR ENEMIES: THE POLARITY STRATEGY
I work in the film industry, which means, getting fucked over is something I’m barely aware of. Sometimes, by someone I don’t even know is doing the “fucking over” (Raiders field goal kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, a regular GHB user, can probably attest to this).
For example, you may have a relative or friend that is always negative with you, who don’t think you will achieve your goals, no matter what you do. If you’re strong enough, their words motivate you, give you purpose and clarity. You want to prove them wrong. In that way, these “enemies” are good for you. You need them. They’re your fuel.
But think about the enemies you DON’T KNOW are your enemies. People who pretend to be your friends but sabotage you. You can spot these people by little signs they reveal, little hints of hostility that occasionally pop up and surprise you. Then, as Mr.Greene says, “you can inwardly declare war against them”.
Of course, you’re your own worse enemy. And you won’t defeat anyone unless you first root out your own bad habits and maximize who you are through discipline and sacrifice — much like an athlete.
THE INNER ENEMY
The fourth pick of 1996 NBA draft, Stephon Xavier Marbury was heralded as the next great point guard. Marbury was named a 1995 McDonalds All-American along with Kevin Garnett and Antawn Jamison. At Georgia Tech, Marbury averaged 18.9 ppg and 4.5 assists and was named a Third Team All American by the Associated Press. It was clear Marbury was a point guard with outrageous talents. He was fast, strong and had court vision.
Minnesota Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale imagined Marbury and his then forward Kevin Garnett being an unstoppable combo in the NBA. McHale had to trade for Marbury’s rights for Ray Allen plus a future first rounder to fit his Stockton-Malone-eske vision.
And it was worth it. In Marbury’s first year, the T-Wolves went to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, where they were quickly dispatched by the Houston Rockets. But the fans loved Marbury, who averaged 15.8 points and 7.8 assists a game in his first year. Marbury and Garnett were a fearsome combination. If the T-Wolves could supply this team with someone other than Tom Gugliotta, they had something here. The sky was the limit.
During the offseason, Garnett signed a contract that was higher than the selling price of the team. 6 years for 126 million. The future was bright. The T-Wolves had solidified their big man for years to come. Their franchise player, K.G.
In his second year, Marbury upped his game. He was the perfect complement to Garnett’s game. They played well together, just as McHale had envisioned. The second coming of Stockton and Malone. K.G. averaged 18.5 ppg and 9.6 rebounds. But the T-Wolves lost in the first of the playoffs once more, this time to the Seattle Supersonics.
Still, the future remained limitless. Afterall, Rome was not built in a day. Other teams in the NBA would kill to have either Marbury or Garnett on their team, let alone both. The Michael Jordan era was coming to end and it was time for a new dynasty. Jordan himself did not win a title for the first eight years of his career. Marbury and Garnett could certainly bring a championship trophy to Minnesota sooner than eight years. Garnett could not even imagine playing without his beloved point guard. K.G. saw them as one. They were the deadliest combo in the N.B.A.
This is why it came as a complete shock to Garnett when Marbury walked into the locker room one afternoon and happily announced great news… that he had been traded to the New Jersey Nets. Garnett went pale and speechless. His point guard looked like he was experiencing the happiest day of his life… because he was leaving the team. The duo was broken, as was Garnett. It took him a long time to get over this. Garnett barely spoke about this in interviews.
In truth, Marbury was jealous of K.G.’s contract and wanted to be the biggest player on the team. This is why Marbury frequently held the ball too long and tried to win games on his own and take ill-advised shots. Marbury saw himself as the hero. He wanted to carry a team on his back. The other four players frequently watched as he would dribble his way to acrobatic play or an embarrassing turnover. Marbury would never consider passing the ball in these moments. They belonged to him.
After Marbury was traded, Garnett soon discovered that the T-Wolves were better. The team had a better flow. They passed the ball more. K.G. would even play point guard himself sometimes. The T-Wolves continued to make the playoffs year after year without Marbury. K.G. would go on to win an MVP Award and experience playing with a championship caliber team when the T-Wolves made the Western Conference finals in 2003-04 with Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell. If it had not been for Cassell’s untimely injury, the T-Wolves might have defeated the Lakers and experienced their first championship. In any case, the T-Wolves experienced plenty of success without Marbury.
Garnett would eventually be traded to Celtics and win his first championship with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (the player Marbury was originally traded for). As envisioned, Garnett would be a champion and fearsome athlete in the right combination. This combination simply did not include Marbury. The player Garnett once could not imagine playing without.
Meanwhile, Marbury would go on to take other teams (the Suns, Nets and his dream team, the New York Knicks) to quick first round exits of the playoffs. But that was as far as his career would ever go. Currently, Marbury is playing in China and eating vaseline on his personal webshow. Garnett and Ray Allen play for the Boston Celtics, who are considered championship contenders every year.
You will face Marburies your entire life. Some will be obvious. Others will have the face of your friends, relatives or even your own. Meaning, Marbury can be your laziness, your alcoholism, the crazy amount of time you spend surfing the internet, your lack of discipline or fear of failure.
Like the predator in the movie “Predator”, you cannot fight an enemy you cannot see. The point is, whether you know it or not, you have one or more Marburies. And your life will be a lot easier if you spot them and conquer them.
Like additional rounds in the playoffs, after that enemy, another will await you. Life itself is like endless playoff rounds where the stakes keep getting higher and higher and higher.
Part of enjoying sports is knowing who the enemy is. At this moment, if you’re a Lakers fan, your enemy is the Hornets. If you’re a Knicks fan, it’s the Celtics. People love sports in a deep way because the nemesis is obvious. You know who to rot for and against. And the rules are laid down. But real life does not have these rules. And today, the enemy is never obvious. You probably don’t know who the Marbury in your life is.
K.G. inadvertently got rid of his enemy by accepting his big contract. His deep sense of camaraderie blinded him to Stephon Marbury’s narcissism and disinterest in team play. K.G. is the type of teammate who will unconditionally defend anyone on his team. This loyalty is actually what prevented him from winning a title for the majority of his career. After Marbury, GM Kevin McHale used Garnett’s loyalty against him to keep him in Minnesota. Had K.G. understood who his enemies were, perhaps he would have won more titles on a different team.
KEYS TO ENGAGEMENT
The word enemy, from the Latin “inimicus”, means “not a friend”. This word has been demonized. It’s actually healthy to have an enemy. In a movie, the enemy is what helps the protagonist gain focus and understand what he’s for or against. The problem is, in real life, enemies are hard to find, because society has a stigma against aggression and confrontation (another reason why watching sports is such a release for us… In sports, aggression is not only expected, but necessary… in real life, it’s looked down upon).
To root out your enemies, you must look for hints, study the history of someone’s action and not their words. The occasional snide comment. The lack of response when you need help the most. Enemies are frequently your friends. Are they supportive in time of need or not? Do they find joy in your suffering? Enemies can also be ideas. Republicans, Democrats, useless materialism, Starbucks, Pink Berry, carnivores, vegetarians, BP. If you cannot find focus in your life, if you’re not sure whether to turn right or left, these people, things or ideas will help you. Call them the anti-role model. You model yourself against what they are. You do the opposite.
One of the most common phrases I have heard in my life is, “why would they do that to me?” These are the words of someone who does not know who the Stephon Marburies are in their lives.
Even after being traded from the T-Wolves, Marbury continued to experience success as a result of his incredible abilities. Each time it took the ball club years before they realized he was, as they would later call him, “a cancer”. They were blinded by Marbury’s incredible gifts as a basketball player. But these clubs all discovered something strange after Marbury left. They started being successful. The Nets went to the finals twice post-Marbury. The Suns nearly revolutionized the NBA under Steve Nash. And the Knicks are finally climbing out of the debris that Marbury and GM Isaiah Thomas. It took them 3 years to clean up the mess, but the Knicks have finally returned to the playoffs this year.
K.G. nearly lost his entire career because he only considered one enemy, The Los Angeles Lakers (whom he eventually defeated with the right teammates). But there were others standing in his way before he could defeat the Lakers. It took him almost 10 years. For others, entire careers have been lost.
You can go crazy thinking everyone is your enemy. Remember that I said, your enemy could be an idea, it doesn’t have to be a person. Michael Jordan, who is the master of crafting enemies to motivate himself, continues to craft enemies and hold grudges this very day, probably this very moment, which pathetically culminated in his Hall of Fame speech, when he flew out the high school coach, Jeff Van Gundy and other baffled sports figures who weren’t sure what more Jordan had to prove. After becoming the most iconic sports figure perhaps in the history of sports, he continued to call people out and mock them for not being on his side. The man is practically diseased with forming enemies. Don’t be like Mike. Gather the appropriate motivation and awareness from your enemies and move on.