David Foster Wallace’s NYT profile of Roger Federer was in the back of my mind yesterday as I watched Tiger Woods win the PGA. Woods, I think, would fall within that very small class of athletes that Wallace describes as “exempt, at least in part, from certain physical laws.”
I love to watch Tiger win a golf tournament, especially when he absolutely dominates a group of players who are themselves supremely talented golfers, precisely because I think that Wallace is wrong about what sets Federer and similar athletes apart. Sure, Tiger, like Jordan, Ali, Gretzky, and Maradona (Wallace’s other examples, though I’m skeptical that Maradona belongs in that group) may train harder and longer than his peers. (Wallace dismisses that explanation, rightly, I think, as “technical.”) But the answer isn’t mystery and metaphysics. I think that the real secret to the special success of these athletes is something that Wallace misses entirely, and something that the TV analysts on yesterday’s broadcast understood perfectly: They are stronger mentally than anyone else on or in the court, rink, ring, field, or golf course. I also love the movie “Bull Durham,” but I’m with those who think that “Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club” is all wrong.
And “Snakes on a Plane“? For reasons not relevant here, I went to see it last night, and judging from the box office returns, I wasn’t alone when I found a nearly empty theater. (Or, of course, I was!) Snakes on a Plane isn’t a thriller, and it’s not even close to horror. It’s mostly a not-very-clever send-up of 1970s disaster movies. There is little of the suspense associated with those, since the who lives? who dies? equation is set, and obviously so, early on. Samuel L. Jackson deserves some credit, though, for his delivery of the one and only one truly funny line in the film: