There’s a good reason why Mozart is never selected to supplement an NBA Playoffs commercial. The construct of any high-profile sporting event often hinges on hype, on lowered lights and booming voices, pyrotechnics and ankle-breaking maneuverability.
Similarly, MLB walk-up songs rarely feature Vivaldi, and NFL halftime performers rarely employ rainsticks.
The practice of athletics isn’t well conducive to silence; for its part, silence is seemingly never conducive to athletics. Pre-game festivities notwithstanding, sports today remain about the noise, the glory of the slam dunk, the evasive slide into third base, the eye-opening aggression between forward and goalie. It almost isn’t basketball without the squeak of rubber soles against hardwood gymnasium flooring.
And yet, I find that as I mature, I have grown to more easily appreciate the silence. As a youth, silence served only as the absence of something, usually of entertainment. It was quite literally a void to avoid; silence was the distance between myself and my life’s next exciting episode. There’s a reason why I fell asleep to music.
Soon enough, however, I recognized silence as an opportunity. Especially with regard to my personality, a moment of silence is likely a moment I am spending alone. And moments alone are opportunities to discover myself, an identity not tethered to others’ impressions of my character.
Silence in athletics affords a similar opportunity to all athletes. Athletes today find little trouble competing in front of packed stadiums. It’s never difficult to rise for a rebound when you know that hundreds of thousands of adoring fans wait to applaud your efforts.
The true extent of one’s efforts, on the field of play and on the field of life, does not live to satiate fans by the bleacher-full. Rather, the true definition of hard work, of identity, thrives in its capacity to marinate in the silence.
Who are you when no one’s watching? Better yet, who are you when no one wants to?
Noise breeds aggression. It fosters an athlete’s capacity to blow through an off-ball screen, to rip an unexpected backhand up the line, to drop a direct free kick behind the outstretched fingertips of an opposing goalkeeper. An athlete performs in the noise.
But an athlete grows in the silence. He will rise before anyone is awake to hear; when an athlete trains, hard work sounds a lot like silence. And you can bet that for every clutch free throw that brings the underdog within one point, as the game clock wanes, that athlete has hit hundreds with only teammates in attendance.
Paul advises both “a time to be silent and a time to speak” in his letter to the Ephesians. And so long as “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed” (Luke 8:17), you can believe that your moments under the spotlight hinge upon the productivity of your time in the silence.
On a separate one, this editorial constitutes my final submission as sports editor. My time at the Troubadour has served me well; to thank everyone who has fostered my progress thus far would be to write another 500 words, so instead I will thank only my mother. Thank you for putting my Editor of the Semester mug to good use, housing your retainer. You couldn’t have done it without me.