Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's Only a Job

Last week I wrote about loving your job, and how for me, at this advanced point in my professional career, such was unlikely to be the case.

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.

1 comment:

  1. It's ironic you say motor racing drivers thought they'd die on the track.

    Today's racing drivers want to have a successful career and retire to the speaking circuit. Most top racing drivers today can retire to a career of five-figure keynote speeches and business ventures.

    The irony is not lost in that rivals Dale Earnhardt Sr (who died in 2001 in a crash after developing such a successful business plan, including a seat on the NYSE) and Darrell Waltrip. Earnhardt Sr's death cost Corporate America a likely star on the speaking circuit. Waltrip, ten years after retirement, is the highest-paid motorsport analyst, has two books, and makes over $50,000 for a keynote speech -- friends he made 40 years ago as a club racer in Nashville helped make him a high-value speaker.

    Ernie Irvan's horse farm in Charleston, numerous automobile dealerships by various drivers, and other business ventures are successful examples drivers in the 1970's and 1980's learning to become successful in life. ESPN's Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace are both $20,000+ keynote speakers.


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