Patience and time do more than strength or passion.
— Jean de La Fontaine, 17th-century French author
To this day, my mother insists that Robbie Alomar had cause in 1996 to spit on umpire John Hirschbeck. A lip-reader from youth, she says the ump provoked Alomar by calling him "a goddam faggot, you're just a goddam f-----g faggot."
"What was Robbie supposed to do?" mom asks. "Just take it?"
Well, yes, I think, although I don't say so to this ardent fan of Alomar even after the zenith of his career with the Blue Jays. Or that I considered Hirschbeck a bigot who should have been retired years ago.
The Good Book tells us to turn the other cheek. High school coaches admonished us, "Don't get mad, get even."
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you," my grandfather would say, reciting his favourite Kipling as we sat in our boat for hours, dangling our fishing poles in the cathedral silence of the Muskokas in hope that an unlucky trout would wander by, "... you'll be a Man, my son!"
There was not much talk that I recall of the consequences for straying from these trite-sounding truisms, though we would learn about them the hard way soon enough.
But Stoicism, the philosophy of self-control and rational, emotionless thinking, has made insufficient progress in the world since its first appearance in Athens just over 2,300 years ago. "No man is free who is not master of himself," wrote Epictetus, one of the earliest Stoics. Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, said: "If you are distressed by any external thing, it is not this thing which disturbs you, but your judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now."
... the rest (although there is no more ClassCon). Meanwhile, the Washington Post gets in on the Homer analogies towards the end if its treatment of Zizou:
"The truth is that it is perhaps not so easy to stay in the skin of an icon, demigod, hero, legend," writes Bernard-Henri Levy in the Wall Street Journal. He describes Zizou's violence as "the man's insurrection against the saint." When the player apologized for setting a bad example, he correctly noted, "I'm a man before anything else."
The instruction here for children and parents who encourage boys and girls to make it in the real world of sports (or business or politics or whatever) is that games have rules that require physical and emotional discipline. A good athlete has to learn how to keep his cool. He has to see himself in relation to his humanity, not his celebrity. In the opening scene of the "Iliad," Homer introduces us to the legendary Achilles behaving like a sulking adolescent, a poor sport indulging a jealous temper tantrum. Achilles is not introduced as the towering warrior. His weakness lies not only in his heel.
Psychologists describe Zizou's head butt as the equivalent of road rage. Others see it rooted in the hard knocks he took on the streets of Marseille where his Algerian origins provoked bigotry and prejudice. But he overcame great obstacles to get where he was. He probably got where he was because of those great obstacles. Hence that's no excuse. Like a recovering alcoholic or drug addict who talks to kids about the ravages of self-destruction, Zizou can now talk about self-control as the most important element of character. That's the way anyone can keep from becoming a bum.