Basketball and the Night Watch.
I am a very eclectic reader. I read a lot of different things. My favorite genres are literature, psychology, education, religion, history, mythology, basketball coaching, and any non-fiction books that give insight in the previously mentioned genres. Eventually, all of them lead me back to basketball. I could read the back of a cereal box and come up with something I could apply to basketball. It's just the way I think, but it also works the other way; I've learned to apply what I've learned from basketball to my understanding of life.
For example, I've recently been reading a book by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson entitled "The Twelve Rules of Life". There was a passage in the book where the good doctor explains the brilliance of the first three books of the Bible. If you remember, this is where the God of the Old Testament acquired his rather nasty reputation as being arbitrary, capricious, and murderous.
Peterson explained things in such a way that it helped me to understand that most of the mythic stories our ancestors passed down to us though the ages are actually brilliant ways of explaining the deep psychological matters that humans have always faced before the invention of an empirical language.
God is not arbitrary. He is the force behind creation itself. Creation has to have its own set of rules to differentiate from nonexistence, and if human beings choose not to align with these natural laws, the potential for evil enters the picture. This concept is explained in Cain's murder of his brother Abel.
Abel brought forward gifts that pleased his father (aligned himself with natural laws) while Cain resisted and did not get his father's blessings. This led to the entry of jealousy into the world and also to the world's first murder. I should mention that Cain also has his role to play in the grand scheme of things; he introduces randomness into the equation. He is also the prodigal son mentioned later in the Bible.
Later in the book, Peterson talks about how this concept influences discipline, learning, and creativity. He says something to the effect that parents can greatly damage their children's development by teaching that rules are random things you make up as you go. It's our reaction to the opposing forces, the rules, and the limitations that not only defines who we are, but differentiates us from the faceless crowd; it also is the greatest source of our creativity.
This is very true in basketball. Basketball takes place in time and place, the fields, courts, and games we play have certain size and time limitations. There are rules in basketball and penalties for not following the rules, and there are immediate consequences if you fail to adjust your play to take into consideration all of the rules and limitations; you do not grow, and you lose.
The people/teams who compete with the right mindset create beauty by disciplining their impulses and aligning their efforts to come up with the most efficient way to deal with the challenges of the game. The blessings are immediate, the crowd cheers, your coach smiles, and you win.
This is a good place to emphasize just how much sport and life are interrelated. The thing that good athletes/ good teams/ good people do is use the same goal driven mindset to determine how they live their life, and how they live their life determines how well they play. Life and sport are two dancers tightly entwined dancing in the confined space of a ballroom, and how they perform the required steps determines not only a beautiful outcome but also whether they receive the blessing or the curse.
Another passage in Peterson's book offers up an explanation as to why so many people fail to align themselves to the actions that would help them succeed. I used to believe that this was mainly caused by hidden trauma and came up with a large list of things that could cause a child to choose less arduous pathways.
We need to understand that the deviation of one degree at the beginning of life puts you way off track fifty years later. It's a good thing that it doesn't matter where we end up; there's always a straight line to where we need to go. Then there is also the strange trick of nature that sometimes the wrong path becomes the right path. J.R.R Tolkien made that idea one of the big themes of The Hobbit.
Peterson says that people become intentionally blind. And how can they help it? We have been trained since youth to focus on what we desire more than what we need, and since deep focus is such a rare commodity, we have to carefully restrict its use or else we would freeze up like an outdated computer as the universe tries to push its way to the center of our vision. We can only see what we are looking at and either make up or ignore all of the rest.
This is good stuff to know in a basketball sense. Peterson mentioned a video where two teams with different colored uniforms were competing against each other in how many successful passes they could compete in a minute. The viewers were asked to count how many passes the white team completed against the black team. Afterwards, the viewers were asked to report their findings.
Next, they were asked about the gorilla. A second viewing reveals that while the viewers were counting passes, a gorilla had walked through the middle of the drill unnoticed. It's true; it was exactly what happened when I showed the video to my class. As long as the gorilla did not walk between the person passing and the person catching the ball, it went unnoticed.
In basketball, defenders are often told that it is sin to lose sight of your man or the ball. This usually results in the player losing sight of his or her man and staying focused on the ball.
Lots of coaches yell out, "Keep your head on a swivel!" They further empathize the point by throwing basketballs at the backs of players who lose sight of the ball in practice drills. This can cause most defenders to briefly lose sight of their man when the action gets heavy.
This is good to know for a variety of reasons. First, it's a good lesson about the proper use of focus; a lot of people make themselves miserable because they can't see what it is that they need to see and keep on staring blindly at outcomes they don't really want. This can cause a ball handler to focus on getting to the basket and not see the three defensive players standing in her path. Instead of charging into the wall, this would be a great time to learn to back dribble and expand your vision.
Secondly, it is a thing that can be exploited. Defenses usually rotate towards the ball, A offensive minded coach can create good actions on the back side of a play by attacking the back defender's ability to see both man and ball, run a cutter in front of the back defender and while the defender tries to restore their vision on the ball, cut their man into a blind spot, and there are a lot of ways to make sure that blind spot is right under the basket.
There is also a defensive use for this knowledge. A coach could bring this information to the attention of the players, so that they will better understand the necessity of constantly moving their heads and changing their stance so that they can see as much of the court as possible.
Then of course, you can always flip it back and use what you learned on the court to explain how it applies to how you should approach life. Whether or not you are serving fries, cutting hair, collecting garbage, or cooking food, the rules of dealing with the size of the court, abiding by the laws against stepping out of bounds, or obeying the need to restore a wider vision by back dribbling and constantly moving your focus, these concepts can help you gain mastery of your life and help prevent you from becoming jealous when those who already know this stuff pass you by.