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Be stoic about it

Bleacher Views

Ancient wisdom doesn’t die; it just shows up at your favorite sports venue.

The latest example was offered by a woman named Sydney McLaughlin at the United States Track and Field Trials.

Ms. McLaughlin runs the 400-meter hurdles, a race that may be the most demanding run this side of a marathon. The 400 is once around the track and is somewhere between a sprint and a longer run. Essentially, you have to put the accelerator to the floor and sprint until you think you can go no farther and then see you have a hundred meters to go. Add to that general nastiness the need to jump over ten hurdles, and you have the making for 50 some odd seconds of absolute misery.

So how does one handle it? By going stoic of course.

Stoicism is one of the West’s oldest philosophies, and one of the best known; however, many people mistakenly think that its just a philosophy for tough guys who don’t want to show any emotion under any circumstances. You know, the John Wayne level of emotional IQ, somewhere between zero and non-existent.

Ms. McLaughlin would be pleased to set anyone of such an opinion straight.

When asked what advice she would give to herself, looking back to when she was beginning her career, she replied, “I would tell myself to try to control only those things I have power over and not pay attention to anything else.”

Now it just so happens that rule is number one in the Stoic Handbook. The ancients may have stated it more grandly, and certainly would have in ancient Latin or Greek, but the idea is the same and has been handed down for centuries.

I have heard the same sentiment from everyone from baseball pitchers to champion golfers, and maybe from a few of us not so champion hackers as well.

If you wish to listen to some modern Stoics, just listen to some athletes who have just come through the fire of doing their best under the most trying circumstances; what they have to say would make many an ancient philosopher pop his toga.


Millerton resident Theodore Kneeland is a former teacher and coach — and athlete.

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