Monday, November 28, 2005

Plato's Theory of Forms and Six-Man Football


Flag Girl & Broncs
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
One of Plato’s more notable observations of our world has to do with his theory of forms or ideas. Bertrand Russell discussed this in his History of Western Philosophy with the following:
Here Plato explains that, whenever a number of individuals have a common name, they have also a common “idea” or “form.” For instance, though there are many beds, there is only one “idea” or “form” of a bed. Just as a reflection of a bed in a mirror is only apparent and not “real,” so the various particular beds are unreal, being only copies of the “idea,” which is the one real bed, and is made by God. Of this one bed, made by God, there can be knowledge, but in respect of the many beds made by carpenters there can be only opinion. The philosopher, as such, will be interested only in the one ideal bed, not in the many beds found in the sensible world. He will have a certain indifference to ordinary mundane affairs: “how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all time and all existence, think much of human life?”

Take this quote and substitute references to the game of football for “bed” and this is how it might read:
…There are many games of football, but there is only one form of a football game. Just as a televised broadcast of a football game is only apparent and not “real,” so the various games that are played at any given time are unreal, being only copies of the “idea of the game,” which is the one real football game, and is made by God. Of this game of football, made by God, there can be knowledge, but in respect of the many games of football composed of the multitude of players, coaches, and referees there can only be opinion. The philosopher, as such, will be interested only in the one ideal football game, not in the many games that can be found in the sensible world. He will have a certain indifference to ordinary mundane contests: “How can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all football and all existence, think much of pre-game hype and post-game drama?”

Plato would have loved six-man high school football.

This stripped-down version of football results in a game centered around the basic elements—dare I say “form”—of the game: solid tackling, good ball-handling, proper execution of play, and speed. These fundamental elements are often overlooked or hidden behind all the extraneous and more attention-demanding material that can accompany a game—especially at the professional level. Therefore we can concur that football is always purest and thus closest to its form if the various elements of “fluff” are eliminated such as the instant replay, marching bands, the clever athlete-endorsed commercials, the play-by-play analysis of John Madden, cheerleaders, trivial statistics, the computerized and oversized scoreboards, the gigantic stadiums, and yes, five players from each team. This is football’s form.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Flicker


Idle Hysham
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
On some evenings I run the track at night over at the high school nearby. It’s usually one of those occasions when I haven’t found or made the time to work out during the daylight hours—a common occurance during the shortened days of the winter months. Seldom is anyone present during these odd hours.

As I make my way around the 400 meter oval in what is typically a 1600 or 3200 meter run, my mind can drift almost anywhere. Rarely will I consider the quality of my workout—rather I just hope for it to end quickly.

As I shuffle down the backstretch in my painfully slow pace, my rescue from the tedium comes in the form of a flicker of light above me—just above me. From the corner of my eye a flash will catch my attention. This light is nothing more than a reflection coming from the smooth surface of the stadium floodlights aimed at the gridiron. The reflection’s source is likely one of the nearby security lights of the school or streetlights beyond the fence.

Despite the easy and logical explanation, I’m transported during that instant to some game in the past. Other times I visualize the flicker above as the start of another Friday night football game—where once the lights come up to full power, the fans start making their way to the stands, the teams take to the field for their pre-game warm-ups, and before long the referees are blowing their whistles to beckon the opening kickoff of another game. I suppose during that frozen moment in time these uneventful evening runs become my Field of Dreams.