So let us begin. If you will, picture a pyramid, and place at the base of the structure the great American sport – Football – the contact sport – the sexual sport. The roar of the male heard throughout the millennia. The quarterback takes the testicle- shaped ball from near the sexual organs of the Center, who is himself bent over clutching the ball. Oh yeah! The scantly clad, leggy cheerleaders bounce their pompoms, and cheer their boys. The males respond with loud guttural caveman-like sounds and thump their chests so the competition can begin. Lots of hands on contact, attack the left side, grunting and groaning, penetrating the line, grabbing the ball, hard tackles, bodies knocking together, throwing a pass, piling on, pats on the rump, wild emotional swings as the boys try to rise to the occasion and Score – badabing badabang badaboom. The booze flows; the crowd roars, the band blares.
Football is played on a rectangular shaped field called a gridiron, which if you looked at it vertically, resembles the bars in a jail – made to confine as well as define the limits of the game. It’s clock ticks off in four tough-nosed quarters. Hard time served. Not a kind, intimate, one on one strength- type sport; football is all male domination baby – rough and ready; battle hardened warriors; in your face mask, organized violence with penalties, testosterone Tarzans in uniforms. It’s physical, it’s loud, it’s arousing, it’s aggressive, It’s undaunted by violence or injuries. It’s the males’ primitive intelligence being displayed. It’s for the glory man, for the adulation and the raw emotion.
It represents the beginnings of the male sexual energy coming alive, and needing to be cheered on by the anonymous crowd and the allure of the dancing female. If you think not, try football without the raucous crowds, or better yet imagine it minus the cheerleaders. It many ways football is an extension of the unconscious male bonding process started in the adolescent years, and needs to be applauded and encouraged. Males bond with themselves first, before they are capable with connecting with the opposite sex. They have to. It is their way – the only way they know.
It’s called the sexual contact sport, because that is what it is. In the beginning there’s sex, at the end not so much. No need to be shy away from it. Just look directly at the symbolism behind the play. It represents the eternal dance of the males performing their bonding ritual to show off their stuff. Only in our time it is played out in the form of a massive physical and digital spectacle sport. Looked at another way it is also easy to see, if you follow the basic rules of engineering, that you need the substance of rock hard concrete to build a strong structure. You need that type of strength in the foundation. You need those guys roaring, and thumping, and pumping. It’s the base of the pyramid not the top. Strength is a must here. Not necessarily smarts. You need those guys on the line. It’s male psychology that’s all. The mythic King Kong attitude is required on the gridiron, even if it is caged or perhaps better put – only if it is caged. Society would not stand for that energy roaring about and knocking over any of it’s other carefully constructed institutions.
Football kicks off in September, and like sex itself, its mighty energy is spent in sixteen short, grunting games. Football – the active force; the beginning, but let’s not get stuck there, ’cause it’s not the end. The energy stirs into life at this completely American game placed squarely at the bottom of the sport pyramid. Positive traits: discipline, hard work – emphasis on hard as in hard muscles, and work, as in macho pumping iron man; team temperament – as in the support for your side of the turf with unflinching loyalty, confidence building – as in getting your ego stroked, as in strutting your mojo.
If football is fraught with stops and starts, setbacks, injuries, and spent energy, basketball is played in eighty plus games to a flow. It is stilled played in timed quarters – back and forth across the rectangle-shaped court, but in this game much of the skill is in not coming in contact with the other players. If played correctly it can be, and in fact is one of the most harmonious and rhythmic games of the five. Basketball is the wind sport. From the grunting and groaning of the lower body, to the breath of the lungs – the chamber that holds the heart, and pushes words through the throat center.
Here we leave the thrusting hips and legs of the football giants in favor of the more agile, sprint legs of the lighter dancers on the hardwood court. Jumping, passing, running, turning, shooting, the team choreographs itself to score. Then to defend – hands waving, eyes darting, blocking, quickness, aware. Instead of the hunker-down bunker-down mentality of football, more of an open intuitive finesse approach. The breath of life is not so much grunting, as it is refining itself, not so much yelling at the opponent as lungs working hard to catch the rhythm of the game. Wind endurance is key in this game. The concept of responsibility within a team is still very important. Cheerleaders -introduced only decades ago at the professional level – seem to be still needed at this stage – those legs, and lips and hips, and pompoms jumping and cheering. The energy of the heart and lungs is still connected to the lower emotional center. Oh these comforting adolescent props are still considered necessary, even on this plane. Positive traits: refinement of skills, speed plus agility, intuitively going with the flow.
As you ascend the pyramid the time restrictions as well as the rectangular shaped constrictions of the first two arenas give way to the welcome and open feeling of the diamond. The diamond is the connector between the lower and the upper – the brute strength of football, and the mental composure and agility of tennis. Baseball is the patient waiting game. Not so much grunting and wind of the other two – but more of that space between the breaths. That gap – that relaxed tension – the holding – the waiting – for the pitch, for the swing, for the crack of the bat. Then the hit – that explosion into life – movement – the ball dancing across the field – players moving in their positions – the mental and physical come together
Individual responsibility, important in all the sports, is even more accentuated at this level. Be with the team, but take your turn alone at the plate. It all counts in baseball: physical prowess, mental stability, silent communications, and individual accountability. Eye on the ball, sacrifice fly. Cheerleaders are no longer needed at this stage, minimal physical contact, not so much flowing wind as burst of life – hand signals instead of words. Gone is the wildness and spent energy of football. The baseball season last six months and over a hundred and sixty games. It is perhaps the most esoteric social sport. The singular goal after running away from home, and being stranded on the base pads with the opposite team (the enemy) all around, is to have enough skill and savvy, strength, determination, and insight, plus a little help from a friend and a strong dose of good fortune left to make your way back home. ‘Cause, baby, in this game no points are put on the board till you come home – America’s pastime – the connecting sport – Baseball.
From the many to the few – from the pounding strength of football, into the flowing breath of basketball, and through the waiting game of baseball – through all the lessons of the past, the obstacles and challenges; the tests needed to be given and learned, understood and overcome; from these many arms and legs working- out and flailing about; from the constant pressure to perform, from pomp and circumstance to just plain circumstance, from the glory and adulation comes the birth of the Two – Tennis.
Symbolically tennis represents the eternal yin and yang – the pair – the mythical Adam and Eve; the original split, the original coming together. To go this distance you can understand how much physical, psychological and spiritual effort it takes. You can’t run out of gas to get this far. The final goal is clearly within reach. If you haven’t blown it all on sex, booze and rock and roll, or on wild emotional roller coaster rides, or have not gotten lost in the din of mass media confusion – if you have successfully negotiated your way this far, and still have enough of your original sane energy left, then you have prepared well, because there is a big psychological shift here.
You are now composed, conditioned and ready to stand alone for the first time. You have gathered enough strength and poise and power to confidently place yourself on the court, upright and dressed in white with singular focus and intention, and challenge your adversary face to face – one on one; directly. No team support here – no cheerleaders – no physical contact – no one to help, no social contract or responsibilities, no time restrictions. You have risen above the fray, and are now completely trusted and disciplined, and capable. You have been taught by the other sports; discipline, hard work, stamina, speed, mental agility, and patience. Tennis is the game of two – relationships on the higher level – body, mind, focus, self-reliance. From the brute strength at the base of the pyramid to the supple conditioning near the top – the Two come to play. Rare indeed it is to find someone so accomplished and adept as to climb out of lustful sex and aggression into the higher realms of love, compassion, trust and integrity. Tennis – transforming, absolutely scary; where you stand alone ready to meet your mirror opposite.
Finally, at the top of the pyramid is Golf. The yoga of sport, where strength and practice have been preserved for the real test – the union with your true Self. Here we have learned from the grosser material elements of the gridiron and have passed all the tests along the way. As you are at the top, you understand the true meaning and intensity of the testing process – raw metal turned into fined, honed steel. Where the fool and the wise man have met in the lower arenas, and the fool has governed much of the time, now only the wise man has control of the reins. Great insight, and self-examination are what is called for at this level. The inner is reflected in what you do, and who you are. It is here that you face yourself – not the crowd on the field or in the stands, or the person across the court, or any other person for that matter – only you. If you have gotten this far, you possess that steeled steadiness and courage to find out who you really are.
In golf there are no ‘in your face’ rivals or hunker-down attitudes, no boundaries, no physical contact, no rah rah sis cum bah, no signals, no noise, no violence, no rock and roll, no huge stadiums, no boisterous intoxicated crowds, no right or wrong way, no uniforms, nothing – only the One. You. The subtleties of yin and yang have finally been mastered, and individual responsibility for one’s actions becomes total. After all who is it that got you into that sand trap anyway? Spiritually and symbolically at this stage all is lost and everything is gained. The ball now becomes an extension of your mind, of your skill, of life’s journey itself. In golf, the lessons of the others are directed inward toward the real you. It is here that your inner skills are near perfection – self-awareness, waiting in between breaths, centeredness, fearlessness, singular focus, and courage to look inward. The mirror is gazing upon itself – master golf – master your mind. Quiet the chatter. Silence the chaos Find the real you.
Get off the pyramid. If you have made it this far, congratulations, you have completed the journey from sex to super-consciousness. All wrapped up in sport.
The inner life of sport is like society itself. At the base – concrete laws – delineated, defined, confined, crime and punishment, political power plays, military might, survival of the fittest. At the basketball level – quick response is needed – the heart of the matter – speech – the power of the word. At the baseball stage you find the connection between thinking, feeling and willing – social mores, political regulations, justice plus the deeper spiritual truths, compassion, goodness, and love thy neighbor. Tennis is intimacy, trust, and personal integrity at the high level, communities trying to be good and do good on the social level, and the two party system on the national level. At the top of the pyramid is golf, which is anything but the dogma and regulations of church or temple, or synagogue. It is the spirit itself – alive, immediate, in the moment. To reach golf – to reach the true Spirit – you have to be willing to drop all the false masks and pseudo identities which family and society have bestowed, and go beyond the crowd of facade masks to find your own first, true and only identity – ever present, always fresh – just beyond the mind stuff.
From the bottom to the top, all of Sport has its long-standing inner challenges. Its unseen teachings are not promoted – or even known – by the owners, players or the media, so they still remain little understood and yet to be purified, but they are there nonetheless and waiting to be learned. Naturally, because of this lack of understanding, people get stuck at one level or the other – usually at the lower – and fail to see each stage as only a growth phase and not a permanent location on which to place ones energies. So, in our society, we frequently see many 45 year old 16 year old’s, and many of our leaders are stuck in football, when what is needed is perhaps baseball consciousness, or maybe even tennis, or a combination. In our current culture there is no mechanism on how to grow up and mature as a human being. Much of the time you, unfortunately cannot trust the society’s ways. You will only get led astray. For the society, as we know it, certainly does not understand the way.
But we should all remember that what is seen and touched on the exterior is just a reflection. This outer form is the garment for the inner testing process. Stadiums, helmets, pads, uniforms, bats, balls, rackets and clubs only provide the venue for the spiritual energy to work. Obstacles and pit falls that could have been removed long ago still remain. But the underlining spiritual current is still the same – undaunted, unchanged, eternal and waiting to be discovered. Why get trapped? Progressing through each segment is so much easier than going ’round in circles, and getting stuck in the same old ditch – over and over and over, like a broken record. If we make a little effort, we might actually get somewhere by completing the journey.