Down through the years, some of our best cornfield philosophers have come from the athletic fields of America.
I’m thinking of the comment by Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers’ quarterback, after his team lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, the Holy Grail of professional football.
Admitting he’s not a good loser, Newton said, “Who likes to lose? You show me a good loser, and I’m going to show you a loser.”
I’m not sure if that philosophical nugget originated with the young athlete or with Aristotle, but I don’t totally agree with it.
I recently watched an “Andy Griffith Show” rerun in which little Opie had come in near last in a Mayberry Day foot race. He went into a deep funk.
Andy forcefully told him, “It doesn’t take courage to win, Opie. But it does take courage to be a good loser.”
Although Opie seemingly accepted the viewpoint, I imagine he inwardly rejected it.
Cam Newton’s comments contradict the legendary treatise of the late great sportswriter, Grantland Rice, who said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
“It’s not if you won or lost but how you played the game.”
That also sounds noble, but it too, goes against human nature. In pro football especially, how they played the game is sometimes ugly and consistently brutal because winning is everything.
Highly competitive sports would be even uglier were it not for rules and penalties that rein in participants’ basic instinct to win.
Nevertheless, there are graceful losers, and it is they who bring class and give meaning to the word “sports.”
On being poor
As you tune in now and then to the ceaseless stream of political brouhaha, have you noticed that the usual theme of eliminating poverty is not a top priority issue?
Is it because the expansive field of candidates is composed primarily of well-off contestants, including two or three multimillionaires?
Being poor these days is defined as “below the poverty level.” I grew up with more graphic and understandable terms describing poverty.
Remember when someone was as “poor as a church mouse?”
The expression has no meaning for today’s young people. Pest control has eliminated mice from the church. Also, few churches are poor. Mice could live lavishly on the crumbs from today’s church kitchens.
Another almost extinct expression is “poor as Job’s turkey.”
“So poor they don’t have a pot to pee in” is Greek to the current generations blessed with indoor plumbing.
The late Gov. Bob Scott, who grew up on a farm near Haw River, once told me that when he was a little boy, he thought pecans were vessels that sat under the bed at night. He said he was half grown before he realized pecans were nuts.
A 50-cent word
A recent column had to do with Ernest Hemingway’s short-word writing style and how journalists are cautioned against writing “over readers’ heads.”
I failed to mention in the column that a passage one reader might consume with clear understanding could compel another reader to reach for Mr. Webster’s dictionary.
That happened to me when I stumbled over the word syzygy in an e-mail from someone who is undoubtedly my most scholarly fan.
Now there’s a word that does not fall trippingly from the tongue nor has meaning for the average reader, including me.
The word syzygy is defined as “conjunction of opposition, especially of the moon with the sun.”
In plain Surry County drawl, syzygy means “the longest night of the year.”
I’d guess that a high percentage of the telephone calls or iPhone texts to parents from college students has to do with requests for money. Some are remarkable for their creativity.
For example, a friend’s grandson, in a state of financial emergency, recently called his Mom to ask for an allowance supplement.
He said he desperately needed new sneakers because he was going to a dance on campus and didn’t want to “stink up the place.”
While I’m not a Donald Trump fan, I do think his critics were nitpicking when they verbally flayed him for, while quoting from the Bible, referring to “Two Corinthians” rather than “Second Corinthians.”
As winter wears wearily on, let us be encouraged by a Hal Borland quote provided by reader Fred Watson of Sanford: “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”
Snow: 919-836-5636; firstname.lastname@example.org