Sports are a dumb-ass metaphor for work
Reasons to let us enjoy sports without weaponizing them against us
Simon Biles’ display of strong boundaries at the Olympics and the punditry shit-storm that followed shows that, unsurprisingly, hustle culture is alive and well in sports. Any hot take I might have about this would be the millionth you’ve seen.
I also won’t be the first to argue that sports as are generally an idiotic analogy for jobs. But since the motif gives work-humpers such a hard-on, and the Olympics have brought the usual crop of articles telling you how athletes’ hustle is just like yours, let’s again punt the notion straight to hell.
For starters, sports are winner-take all--the slightest advantage is the difference between glory or total ruin. 99% of jobs are much more forgiving.
When Bill Belichick imposes the tyranny of “Do Your Job” upon Patriots players, it’s because only one team gets to win the Super Bowl. In other areas of life, the second (or 26th)-best can still live large. Ask the bosses at White Castle or any other also-ran fast food. (Conversely, ask any worker at McDonald’s how being #1 is working out for them)
Sports require you to focus your best energy on a relatively short performance. Most jobs require long periods of “good enough.”
Yes, Jordan practiced hard, but he was building up to maybe a handful of critical 48-minute moments each year. Forgive me if I’m not using Jordan-flu-game focus to attack my 8th meeting of the day, for the 10,000th day in a row.
Many sports reward a hyper-competitive “mean streak” which blows up in your face in any other context
I’ve seen more than one person annihilate their good will among coworkers by trying to bring “needed intensity” into the building. Try treating your fellow shippers at FedEx the way Michael Jordan treated his teammates and tell me how it goes.
Most of all: sports are awe-inspiring and fulfilling activities worth putting your all into, while most jobs suck ass and aren’t worth more than the bare minimum
I’d like to appreciate crazed athletic overachievers without worrying that a middle manager is going to make my life miserable by aping them to satisfy his authoritarian impulses.
To the cottage industry of ex-athletes writing books about management, or pitching sports as teaching children the “values” (i.e. tolerance of blowhard exploiters) to succeed at work: I know you have to maintain your lifestyle, but for the love of God, take pity on the rest of us.