Friday, October 16, 2009

The International Brotherhood of Squash

And sisterhood....

Above, a Wiki map of countries around the world currently experiencing significant deaths from wars or internal strife. The numbers are unfathomably huge, and with each number comes the sadness of families and friends and, often, a grim resolve to get even.... And so this testosterone-fueled cycle of violence goes on.

I've found that countries all over the world are packed with a lot of great people who are often shackled by mediocre governments. Or worse, criminal governments. 

Personally, I hate it when others think I am somehow representative of what my government might be doing or saying about some crisis point in the world, and I try not to make the same mistake with others. I like the fact that, in one sweaty room, an American can play a great game with a resident of a nation that might not like the US government a whole lot, but there they are, having a game, and a respectful one at that. (They can discuss politics while having a beer together later on.) How about a Pakistani playing a great match against an Indian rival, an Egyptian beating the tar out of an Israeli, but shaking hands after the carnage, a Serb congratulating a Croat after a tough 5 games.... It's sport, a common language that levels everyone to the same plane. It's a beautiful thing. 

Here's a quote to ponder -- Philo of Alexandria, an important philosopher of the first century AD who melded theological ideas from the Jewish tradition with Greek philosophy, came up with what many consider a precursor to the Golden Rule:

Be Kind, for Everyone You Meet
Is Fighting a Great Battle!

Live that rule, on court and off, and watch that map of strife whither away.


  1. I admire the volume of posts you generate, and I like reading about squash, so I keep returning here hoping you'll have something interesting to say. It's seeming more evident with every entry, though, that that's unlikely to happen. What's the point of this most recent one? Squash is no more or less an instrument for world peace than many other international sports, and what you have to say adds zero new insight.

    Before that, you laud the performance of the U.S. at the world teams, when our boys in fact were treading water, finishing in their seeded position and failing to pull off a breakthrough win. Respect attained? I don't mean any disrespect to the U.S. team when I say it's clear you don't know what you're talking about.

    And before that, you chastise Fram for admitting she doesn't know about hardball doubles. The woman makes it to the U.S. once a year for the ToC. Where do you think she's going to learn about hb doubles? The game is obsecure even to most American squash players -- it's its own clubby subculture. You're complaint is something akin to chastising a French tennis journalist for not knowing the ins and outs of platform tennis.

    Besides, she was admitting her own ignorance -- sort of the opposite of what you do here. I'm convinced you love the game, but so far you've shown no sign that you have any insights or experiences to share beyond those of a chatty recreational player.

    I know, if I don't like it I don't have to read it. I'll probably take that approach from now on. But I had hopes this would turn into something worthwhile. And though my comments aren't exactly friendly, they're sincerely felt, and maybe some of them will rise to the level of constructive criticism. Good luck with this -- really. If you're going to make it fly, though, I think you need to become less enamored of your every idea. Maybe try doing some journalistic digging (something beyond reading Squashsite and Squash magazine and getting in your weekly game) and you'll find a few interesting things to say.

  2. Great post! Good observations and I love the quote at the end, never heard that one before.

  3. Faraz, thanks for reading! Hope you keep reading the blog, and feel free to contact me directly with any thoughts about the game. I don't know where you are from, but I really like the fact that people from many of the squash-playing nations are looking at this site. I happen to believe the quote from Philo is the wisest sentence I've come across. Try to live it is my only advice!

    Anonymous, however, is not pleased with what he reads. You know, on the one hand, that's okay, because I've learned from my regular job as an editorial director that if you are out there, stating your comments and opinions publicly, you are inevitably going to irritate people who either disagree with you or disagree with your overall approach. When you are out front where folks can take a good look at you, that's what happens, and that is to be expected.

    In the case of the comment by Anonymous, we apparently disagree on some fundamental things. When it comes to the US team, I think they did very well, not so much by meeting their seeding but because they just missed making a top ten finish. If you look at the scores, a few points, a few lucky breaks either way could have made a huge difference. They are closer than ever; I wanted to acknowledge that. They didn't get their butts kicked, they lost close matches.

    As for Fram, we exchanged very nice emails and she completely agrees with my statement! On the one hand, I lavished praise on her, she is working for the best squash news site around, and I happen to like her personality-focused approach to the news. I just pointed out her somewhat off-hand way of referring to hardball doubles, that's all, and she agreed, and thinks softball doubles can be mind-numbing. I hope to show her how great hardball dubs is when she is next in town.

    As for the piece on sports and world amity, I think on the one hand sports is one of those areas where people can get along fantastically, even helping one another out when they are down. But I also think there are some sports for which that is especially true, and squash is among them. I can think of many acrimonious soccer (ie, futbol) games that have devolved into verbal nastiness, pugilistic explosions and even, incredibly, deaths. I hold squash in high esteem for its success as a world sport.

    If these and other posts don't interest you, or irritate you, then you could of course not bother to read it. I'm in publishing, though, and when someone tells me they are not going to read one of our magazines a lot of alarm bells go off! I can only say I have a few blogs planned that might interest you, including some journalistic reviews of some of the physical problems that squash players (and alas, lately, me) suffer from, including hip osteoarthritis, rotator cuff tears or microtears, and foot and ankle problems. And other stuff....

    Anonymous, I actually like the fact that you bothered to write in. Please check the site out at least every now and then. If you have any suggestions, by all means drop me a note. I really believe squash is the greatest individual sport around, and I'm just trying to up the discussion.

  4. Our sport lacks a vibrant, diverse online community and infrastructure (but maybe vested interests like it this way).

    I believe our sport would benefit with more voices, platforms and viewpoints. The more varied the better in my opinion. We should be encouraging bloggers to write, not criticize their effort. For a sport that claims to have millions of participants, how many squash websites are there?

    The Squashist's writing or choice of subjects may not be for everyone, but our sport is richer with the coverage and especially by The Squashists earnest and consistent attempts to engage the squash public and foster feedback, dialogue and differing viewpoints.

    What is it about squash that it is common to shoot the messenger rather than focus on the validity of the message, questions/issues raised or value of having the discussion/participation?! We should welcome all efforts (even those we may not like, agree with) to cover our game (especially when so many of us often complain about the dearth of coverage)?

    Please keep up the great work Squashist, don't be deterred in the slightest by naysayers. I think the silent majority (a diverse geographic bunch judging by the visitor map) look forward to your blogs, enjoy your varied perspectives, topics, appreciate the quality of writing you bring to the sport and are thankful for a refreshing take on squash that isn't simply about the tournaments, quotes and scores.

    I think John Nimick said it best:
    "somehow squash has to worry less about getting the results in the paper and more about creating an attractive culture."

    The Squashist writes about different aspects of this squash "culture" ... he is part of the solution.


Sorry, but due to increasing spam, I've added the Word Verification step. My policy on comments is anything goes, as long as it is about squash and as long as it isn't unnecessarily nasty....