The Myth of the Dumb Jock

In order to better address the needs of our fitness-obsessed readers, we are introducing this semi-regular column, "I of the Tiger," to take on the vital hardcore fitness issues of our time. Today: jock-nerd unity. Dig it.

Here is a famous parable from The Bible:

Once upon a time, there was a young man. Not very athletic. Played a bit of Little League baseball, sure. Played basketball on the playground for fun, sure. But not competitive. Not an "all-star." When high school rolled around, and all the coaches started screaming real loud about winning, and all the kids got bigger and better, and people seemed to really get genuinely upset if you dropped that fly ball or lost your dribble off your foot, he gave up on competitive sports altogether.

As he saw it, in the world of full-grown humans, there were two categories: the jocks, and the non-jocks. The jocks play the sports, and lift the weights, and run around the track, and whatnot. If you're a non-jock, you can still do those things—but you'll never do them as well as the jocks, who are blessed with a natural ability to do jock things better than non-jocks are. And that's all the young man thought about that. Sure, he'd go out and play, for fun. But he was not a jock. What was the point, really? He satisfied himself with the knowledge that jocks pay for their athletic prowess by being less good at other cool stuff including but not limited to S.A.T. tests and smoking weed.

FAST FORWARD six or seven years. The young man is out of school. He is safely outside of the zone in which significant numbers of people in his peer group participate in organized athletics. Out of boredom, he starts going to the gym and stuff. He likes it. He improves. After some time has passed, he is, for perhaps the first time, more athletically inclined than his peer group, due mostly to the regression of his peer group's athletic tendencies. And he wakes up one day and is faced with the strange notion that other people who were just like he was now view him as the mythical "dumb jock," even though he is the one who invented the concept, when he was 14. And he came to the realization that, in fact, there are no jocks. There are only those who try, and those who don't try.

Who was this young man? I can't tell you, but he grew up to write one of America's Top 400 Online Fitness Columns (Amateur Division).

The point of this amazing little Bible story is that you, the smart boys and girls out there, have literally no excuse for not doing something athletic. Your vaguely pretentious self-justifications are myths. The stone-headed jockocracy of which you would never want to be a member does not exist. You just don't want to sweat.

Yes, there are people out there who are naturally athletically gifted. Way more than you. Way more. You don't even want to find out how far down the bell curve you are. Trust me on this one. The promise that you can do athletic or physically-oriented things is not a promise that you can be competitive with the elite athletes of the world. Oh no. Not at all. (Especially not you.) What it does mean is that you can do these physical things. Not as well. But you can do them. Even competitively. Just not in as good a competitive set. Whoever you are, you can find a peer group with which you are just as physically competitive as an elite athlete is in an elite group. Boom, now you are doing sports and/or fitness. You are the jock.

And once you accept once and for all that the world is not made up of those who can and can't Be Hardcore but rather of those who choose and don't choose to Be Hardcore, you may begin to experience physical activities as a mere extension of the mental manifestation of Hardcoreness, thereby becoming enlightened as to how much mental stamina and fortitude it requires to force our bodies past their preset physical limits. It is not the province of the dull; it is a task of concentration, will, and brainpower equal to any of nerdery upon which we may have prided ourselves back when our distaste for hollering red-faced coaches foolishly led us to disbelieve in existential unity. Body. Mind. Jock. Nerd.

We are all one.