The brilliance of the TV show Friday Night Lights is that it’s not about football or Texas or even Taylor Kitsch’s abs. It’s about identity.
Jason Street is the All-American QB with his college and pro future neatly laid out for him until an accident leaves him in a wheelchair. Matt Saracen is a quiet, nerdy guy who is thrust into the spotlight as the team’s QB. Lyla Garrity’s perfect life is shattered by boyfriend Jason’s injury and the gossip that pushes her away from cheerleading. Tami Taylor is tired of being “the coach’s wife” and nothing else.
And Smash — he can’t be nobody but the Smash.
That’s what ran through my head when I read this Wendy LeBolt piece on specialization:
This may be our developmental system’s biggest problem. When losing a game or losing your starting spot means losing your identity, you panic. Your fight or flight system kicks in and stress completely subverts all your best intentions and reasonable considerations. Quick, accurate decision-making and performance is impossible. Fear makes us forget what we know. Those thoughts don’t even make it to the frontal lobe once the emotional brain gets hold of them.
Seems like a bad idea in general to tie one’s identity to one thing. Even worse to tie it to something as ephemeral as athletic ability. And even worse to start tying it to one sport at an early age.
(Granted, it’s a bad thing to do as an adult, too. I say that as a flimsy excuse to play the following video for comic relief:)