Doug Logan is an Adjunct Professor of Sports Management, at New York University. He was the CEO for USATF from 2008 until September 2010.
He was also the CEO, President and Commissioner for Major League Soccer from 1995 to 1999.
To read more about his background and involvement in Track, Soccer, Rugby and the Music industry, read my Freelap Friday Five Interview.
This is his 72nd article. Click here for his entire series.
SHIN SPLINTS 2014
Last fall, in New York, I had an afternoon to kill. I walked to the Museum of Modern Art [MoMA] and had a light lunch in the cafeteria. I then toured a small exhibit by the eighty-four year old master, Jasper Johns. The show, titled “Regrets”, consisted of his most recent work and contained only two paintings, ten drawings and two prints. All the pieces were inspired by an old, creased and damaged photograph of Lucian Freud, the British portraitist, and grandson of Sigmund.
In the photo, once the property of the artist Francis Bacon, Freud is sitting in apparent agony on the edge of a bed, clutching his forehead. The subject is stark and almost frightening and I was compelled to walk around the gallery and experience each piece several times. Each rendering was done a bit differently. I spent about 45 minutes there and when I walked out I left the museum without looking at anything else. I did not want to have my experience contaminated by any other visual interruption…almost like wanting to leave a restaurant after a particularly satisfying dish without tainting the palate with another taste.
Art says different things to different people. The exhibit spoke to me and exhorted me to have no regrets. There is a sports cliché that encourages competitors to “…leave it all on the field”. Leave the fray knowing you gave it your all. Leave no stone unturned. The art portrayed the agony of second-guessing and the remorse associated with it.
The British painter and sculptor, Chris Ofili, also toured “Regrets” last fall and then had an opportunity to tour Johns’ studio in Connecticut and meet with him. In an interview in the October 6th issue of the New Yorker, the forty-six year old Ofili remarked on how happy Johns was. He said:
“I’m really happy for him. His work is so full of life. He’s like a bloodhound that’s got the scent, and just goes for it. He’s in heaven right now—and he’s sharing the joy of it.”
It’s obvious that Jasper Johns is currently experiencing little regret. He is doing the best work of his life and apparently reveling in it. And, he’s in his mid-eighties. This creative energy is being unleashed in a culture that seems obsessed with thwarting the impulse. We have grown through an era where preparation for the “Golden Years” has been encouraged, and even thought to be required. Retirement communities, IRA’s, pensions, annuities: all trumpet calls to stop producing and become a part of a passive audience rather than productive actors in the theater of life.
What gave us the idea that we should stop short of finish line…and that we are somehow entitled to become slackers while we still had the capacity to compete? Think of a running-back breaking out into the clear and then stopping and laying down on the twenty-yard line short of the goal. Retirement is not a birthright…we are not “entitled” to it…it is not constitutionally protected. It is an artifice of the post-World War II labor market, where industrial employers wrong-headedly gave concessions to workers to compete for their services. Public employee unions jumped on the bandwagon and the rest is history.
There is nothing admirable about full-time leisure. It is nothing short of sloth. Labor enriches and has dignity; those who retreat from it become stale and mentally sclerotic. The fact that, as a result of the recession, many today cannot retire at the arbitrary age of 65 is a blessing, not a tragedy. It will force us to continue to produce, as we are capable of. Social Security benefit thresholds should be raised to prevent our parasitic reliance on the next generations.
Many justify their passivity on the vagaries of their physical condition. Most of that is bunk. We are the healthiest geriatric generation in history and have the means to make ourselves even healthier with good nutrition, exercise and modern medicine. But, many would rather dwell on their infirmities rather than focus on their well-being. Just look at the wheel-chair line at the airport. Ask any gate agent and he or she will tell you over half of the rolling infirmary consist of the obese, the lazy, or those who think they are entitled the attention as a VIP perk.
I plan to work right to the edge of morbidity. It may require some modification as I get older, or infirm, or have other limitations. But work, I will. It nourishes me; it fulfills me; it keeps me feeling relevant.
In 1999, when I left my job as Commissioner of Major League Soccer, I closed my final press conference with the following four phrases. I saw it as an epitaph for a period of employment, but maybe it applies to more than that.
“I am not bitter; I have no regrets; I did my best: I have no excuses.”
Note: Now that I have described my desire to work, let me inform you that for the next fortnight I will not be working. I will take my usual rest from writing for two weeks and return in the first week of 2015. I wish all of you a joyous Holiday Season!