One thing that’s struck me over the years is listening to the number of athletes who talk about how they don’t love playing the game. For them it’s a job, not a vocation, and quite often a painful job at that. I guess I can understand that – we’ve turned sports into such a year-round, full-time, big-money profession (most pros used to have jobs in the off-season to make ends meet, like selling insurance) that there’s really no reason why an athlete would feel any different about his job than anyone else.
This weekend Judie asked me if I though racing drivers felt the same way as other athletes. I thought about it for awhile and decided that, if anyone in sports really loved what they did, it would probably be racing drivers. They’ve grown up with cars from an early age, worked on them mechanically as well as driven them, and are subject to fewer external micromanagement than, say, a football player. Plus they’ve always been an eccentric lot; back in the day when auto racing was much, much more dangerous, most drivers took it for granted that they would eventually die on the track. So maybe “love” is a strong word; perhaps it would be more accurate to say that being a racing driver is not only what they do, but who they are.
And musicians? Well, there’s an area where I thought there would be some love. We always hear about the spiritual powers of music, especially classical music. But apparently that ain’t so either, as Alex Ross points out in this quote from the February Opera News interview with conductor Riccardo Muti:
I am very astonished when some of my colleagues—pianists or conductors or violinists—are asked, “What do you feel on the podium?” or “What do you feel when you play?” And they answer, “An enormous joy.” For me, all my life, it’s been an enormous pain—I’m never happy about what I do.
Fascinating. Muti’s comment suggests that he looks at himself as an aberration within the music world. But, sadly, it sounds more like he's just another working stiff trying to get along.