Thursday, February 7, 2019


I try not to talk about sports, primarily soccer, too much in this space, but I occasionally do. When I do I like to, as with all subject matter on clerkmanifesto, apply it like a crowbar to the secret wisdoms of the universe.

So let me briefly explain what I like about sports:

They are what America fantasizes it is.

The fact that your dad was a merciless real estate mogul who made a fortune, or your mom a successful Federal Judge, is not going to give you any meaningful advantage in becoming the starting striker for the Real Betis soccer team. And likewise not terribly relevant skills of diplomacy, saying the politically right thing, or treating people up a hierarchical chain from you in a way that subtly flatters them, will not have a deep influence on whether you might be the defensive midfielder on America's Women's World Cup team.

Of course, this is true in fields other than sports. Like, look at this blog.

This is not true of fields other than sports. There are no fields other than sports wherein the skill in the thing itself is commensurate with success in that field.

But we like to pretend it is. We like to pretend CEOs and University Presidents are the best available business leaders and educational and research administrators. We enjoy the idea that a top Doctor is a great healer, or that the best library workers will be promoted and cherished. We relish the fantasy that doggedly writing a thoughtful, faithful, witty blog will attract hundreds of thousands of fervent readers (well, maybe that's just me). We like the conceit that the President of the United States is a person who combines realism, vision, communication, and humanity to extraordinary effect, like Messi combines shooting, dribbling, passing, and understanding of the game to the greatest success. But out of all the 100's of millions of people to choose from, Obama possessed only two of those ideal qualities. The current snack food in the White House actually manages to possess zero.

That's an impressive number.

It took cultural mathematical geniuses to invent zero. The amount of credit they got for it was probably...


But it might have reflected well on the chief or king or whatever of the time.

If someone could somehow make library customer service into a measurably objective competition, with the best in the field being fought over and lavishly rewarded, I suppose I'd follow it with an interest equal to the one with which I follow the Barcelona Football Club. "Look how nice they were to that patron, all while they headed off that problem there. And then how they even knew the answer to that question! My god, I hope we renew their contract for 50 million dollars! I've never seen anyone better."

And that's just it. In competitions the rules are articulated. Winning is the satisfaction and goal. Scoring goals is difficult and quantifiable. In the rest of our jobs nothing is so clear. If making the most money as quickly as possible is the goal we become morally depraved. If it's to have the most power we become empty. If it's to make our workplace better, happier, and more effective we lose all measurement of what we do and our work is hijacked by people operating under more mercenary and sociopathic rules.

Outside of sports I find that mainly people do their jobs on the side, kind of on their own recognizance. What they're really doing in the forefront is expressing their position. They are maintaining, or, sometimes, expanding their status. Our eyes are ever on small things. We are cynical, embittered. All of the wrong things about us are judged. 

All of the wrong things about us are judged...

Unless we step onto a field of sport, where the rules are clear and absolute. Or, if by some luck or skill, we step into the radiance of love.


  1. Want bucks or recognition like the top athletes get? You'll need to either get sponsors, sell tickets, or raise taxes. A lot.


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