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Sporting Chance: Experts, work and other
Peter Geyer
Rules and regulations, who needs them? Throw 'em out the door…………………………………………….…. Graham Nash 1983 What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know? To answer involves ideas as well as facts …………………….….C.L.R.James 1995 I just look in my book of liars for your name…. Walter Becker 1994 The nutrition expert Rosemary Stanton recently gained space in a lifestyle newspapersupplement, dismantling the notion of fad diets with some simple facts about food andexercise (2005). In doing so, she bemoaned malign influences on diet such asmarketers and celebrities, wondering why experts don't get similar responses from thepublic at large.
Of course, it may have something to do with some of the language of foodmeasurement: In my decades of life, I've never seen anybody produce the amountsprescribed for portion, serve, or standard drink, which makes them fairly useless in apractical sense. Standard plates and glasses seem to imply something else, anyway.
Food is everywhere, I suppose, so you might not think you need someone to tell youabout it, although recipe books continue to sell in droves in this country, for reasonsthat escape this cook. And the female market, at least, is filled with magazines that tellyou how to live your life, perhaps with celebrities as role models, which is a littlefrightening, particularly when you work out that their lives aren't really like yours atall.
From looking at a collection of New Idea magazines recently at my local fish andchips shop (the covers, really, but I know no-one will believe me), it seems thatcelebrity life is continual angst and trauma and not really something to be emulated atall. Perhaps the stark reality and lack of nutritional correctness in such a placeencourages reflection on these lines, gazing at people who probably wouldn't want tobe seen in such a place, were they to know that they existed.
In these publications, words like "fear" and "tragedy" seem to overwhelm "happiness"or even "love", much like others like "anger", "fury", "shock", "outrage" and "shame"that proliferate around the media these days. It suggests that celebrities, if not thegeneral populace, are bordering on something akin to road rage or some other passionat all times, and that the quiet cup of tea in the kitchen is no more a part of ourfrenzied world, with energy drinks the new pick-me-up.
C.G. Jung would probably suggest that all this relates to the unconscious, and thatthere's no real decision making going on here, at the conscious level at any rate. But there's nothing irregular in this, unless you don't like what people are doing, and youwould prefer the practice of calmer, or "higher" pursuits; things you'd like anyway.
What celebrities say can sometimes be a little incongruous as well. The songwriterand musician Graham Nash wasn't alone in making several quasi-revolutionarystatements during a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert in 1983, recently made availableon DVD (2003). The music and the harmonies were excellent, but tarnished in someway by the spectacle of these rich men expressing outrage in a setting where frommemory admission charges were fairly steep. It's another world, I suppose, andunconscious at that.
The mercantile world has been around for quite a while, probably predatingcivilization at one level. But it seems that buying and selling is now part of everyactivity, and that it's expected that you'll advertise this or promote that without thequalms now belonging to a former age.
A few years ago, an ESTJ senior manager who I had regular dealings with on theMBTI stated baldly that we were all salesmen, anyway. This made me squirm a bit, tobe truthful, as I don't see myself and what I do in that way at all. I thought this anextreme view of customer service principles and considered ideas at least to beexempt from this view, but it wasn't the case for her.
Gideon Haigh writes lucidly on this topic in his Game for Anything (2004) a themebeing the organising of international cricket, now dependent as many sports are onsponsors and corporate benefactors. Haigh is not anti-business, as one might expectbut he's not averse to critically regarding the efficacy of business methods in varioussituations, including the abilities and motivations of the people operating in thismanner. A previous publication on CEOs (2003) is worth a read on specificallybusiness issues and covers similar ground regarding the unevenness of humancapacity and vision. It's a reminder, if we need one, that position, influence and wealthdoesn't necessarily mix with sagacity, irrespective of type preferences anddevelopment courses undertaken.
The proliferation of business language in sport and elsewhere is a case in point. It maybe fine to describe cricket and football grounds as workplaces or another day at theoffice but people don't come into offices to watch others' work.
There's something else in sport that drags people along, even if a sport's managers orpromoters make play with individual earnings, as in golf and tennis. Not all sports andnot all people, of course. But it's not about role models, or risk avoidance, somethinglike music and other arts in many respects, where there's scope for difference, eveneccentricity amidst a cavalcade of "normal" people.
Part of that is the association of sport with culture and consciousness: why people doget involved in some way and why that might have deeper meaning for individualsthan what on the surface is chasing or hitting a ball, for instance.
Martin Flanagan (2003) recently examined some of the complex interactions ofAustralian Football and war, beginning with his anxieties about the (then) impendingwar in Iraq and how that reflects Australian Rules Football and the peopleexperiencing war, now and in the past. The well-documented appeal of this gameacross genders and classes makes it an interesting study, and suggests deep culturallinks.
Peter Roebuck's recent book (2004) presents some of his views and experiences as acricketer, teacher and writer in his characteristically terse style and invites us at timesto see the attraction of a game he engaged in at odds with the wishes of his father.
Curiously, Roebuck is now, apart from his topic, fairly much doing what his fatherwished.
Facts and experts come into cricket and football as well, not necessarily asregurgitating interminable statistics, but what was done and said, apart from the mythsand legends. Haigh quotes the West Indian thinker and writer on cricket, C.L.R.
James to effect here, suggesting that cricket (and,by implication, other knowledge)requires a wider appreciation of life than the boundaries of that field Haigh points out that the reality of the life of Donald Bradman is now not onlyundiscussable, given his now god-like status, but is also a brand name, a postmodernamalgam of the collective unconscious and marketing, perhaps.
In any case, facts can get in the way of a good story. The former MP Cheryl Kernotfelt compelled recently to write to the Age from London in response to her appearancein a somewhat jumbled article by Gabriela Coslovich on people who have "pulled theplug" on a career and done something else. Kernot pointed out that she "did not feelcompelled to 'quit by a whiff of scandal'", but "actually lost my seat" (2005).
In the same edition of the Age, Ross Gittins points out the economic falsehood ofholidays being bad for the economy, without even having to get to the obviousbenefits to entertainment and tourism. Perhaps working smarter, not harder is stillsomething hard to grasp in some corners of business and its associated worlds.
As with cricket, so with other sports. The historian and football follower GeoffreyBlainey in his excellent A Game of our Own has pointed out with succinct reasoningand analysis of both data and context the impossibility of the direct origins ofAustralian Football in Gaelic or Aboriginal games (2003). An unwelcome expert,perhaps, in some quarters.
One suspects that Blainey's research wouldn't stop debate in these areas, just asadherence to particular principles can sometimes bewilder. Recently, it wasannounced that "high-performing" but stressed school principals in the State ofVictoria would be provided with coaching "in a bid to improve leadership skills,prevent burn-out and balance work and personal lives (Tomazin, 2005).
Leaving aside the inherent contradiction between "high-performing" and "stress",(perhaps the former is budget related) one might have thought that the system andwork practices might want to be re-examined, rather than have coaches. It's a complexissue, of course, and we're back to "smarter not harder" again.
But I wonder where "education" fits in all this There can be a tendency in practice tothink that one method fits all, both in management, education, and elsewhere. This issomething that ideas like psychological types challenge, of course, and one wonderswhat actual headway is being made in explaining an alternate perspective Anorganisation promoting action against depression beyondblue, appears to promotecognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) as the,not a,method, which is unfortunate, butthey seem to have expert status at the moment.
That's not to say that type is purely and simply the answer, as there are quite a fewentanglements with business, or other aspects of the current system. One of the dilemmas, perhaps contradictions, of the MBTI for the people who use it is thebusiness associations that it is a philosophy, or way of life, and also a saleable productcompeting in a marketplace. The adventures of its publisher and distributors and howthey decide to develop or promote a product, regulate its access and so on impact notonly on the hip-pocket nerve of the professionals purchasing materials but also oninterest groups, academic institutions and public perceptions.
Whether this is a good idea or not is fairly much up in the air and in some respects isbeside the point, as it's not likely to change. The main teachers in type (including me)are also all in business. Several respected thinkers in the area spend their timedeveloping saleable products, rather than conducting research per se. It's a necessity,but there are difficulties in appreciation when an idea or philosophy is associated witha saleable product, perhaps one trademarked in some way to restrict use or access.
Countering critiques of the MBTI by saying "why don't you come and do a course?"has inherent difficulties.
In any case, the history of psychological instruments has been essentially one ofdevelopers and publishers and businesses, the former usually associated withuniversities or similar institutions. Isabel Briggs Myers' lack of direct association withsuch bodies still casts a shadow over the utility of the MBTI, unfairly in my view, butthere it is.
This then leads to a general dilemma. If a business, or someone contracted to abusiness or otherwise associated with it puts something out about its product, sayPfizer and Prozac, there are going to be some parts information and other partsadvertising. How do we tell the difference? In instances like this, it's not easy to tellbecause you may need specialised knowledge.
So, if I know about business, or marketing, do I know about anything else? If I know about type, what else is it that I know? A friend of mine asked me similar sorts of question about 20 years ago, and for mepart of the answer was to read more, read more widely, and read people who engageyou with the topic and who, more or less, know what they're talking about. True,there's discussion, but opinion isn't knowledge and you have to be able to make adistinction. Even when someone like Haigh drolly refers to Madonna as a musician "ifthat's what she does", you need to be aware of her performing history and associatedcontroversies This latter part is becoming more and more important, as letters and opinion sectionsof newspapers and journals are cluttered with bylines of politicians, corporations andother institutions, whose main aim seems to be to defend or declaim something, ratherthan discuss it.
In a recent discussion in Victoria, reports of individuals becoming seriously ill afteraccidentally swallowing Yarra River water were initially followed up with agovernment statement that informed us, somewhat incongruously, that the waterwaywas not dangerous to health. Don Watson's recent dictionary is a compact interpretiveguide and his definition of personality demands reading (p. 249, 2004).
Journalists are a more complex beast, in that you can generally presume that theirtopic knowledge is limited when starting out, but that their role is simply to report rather than opine. In terms of personality, it may not get past the two opposites of funand danger, but they might manifest themselves like Daniel Goleman or AnnieMurphy Paul.
But, as the veteran journalist Martin Woolacott has pointed out, they can act as a"moral corporation" regarding what they find appropriate to report. This seems to be afeeling evaluation, but it doesn't have to be a dominant function response. Quite theopposite, depending on the line you take on Woolacott's examples of Pol Pot andWinnie Mandela as people whose depredations went unreported for some timebecause of profound antipathy to the activities of the regimes that these two peopleopposed.
Some people are sloppy with facts, others are more interested in a good story thantruth, heading perhaps for Walter Becker's book of liars, or similar personal, or evenpublic compilations.
Is all this relevant to how people teach and apply type? Well, yes. No matter yourtype, you have to know whether something's factual or not, whether someone'sstatements on an issue are more a press release of a promotional sheet than anaddressing of queries and issues. Otherwise type becomes the parlour game many sayit is. So it's a way of gaining credibility rather being on the edge of trivia. It's one wayof giving yourself a sporting chance.
Book of Liars (Zeon Music ASCAP) from 11 tracks of whack A Game of Our Own: The Origins of Australian Football Black Gabriella Coslovitch Pulling the Plug in the Age A3 25 January 2005 The Game in Time of War Picador, 2003 Enjoy the holiday. You really have earned it from the Age Bad Company: The cult of the CEO Quarterly Essay 10 Black Game for Anything: Writings on Cricket Black Inc. 2004 Rebalanced Life from the Age Letters January 26, 2005 p.10 Chicago from Crosby, Stills & Nash Daylight Again DVD Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh Allen & Unwin 2004 And another thing Life and Times column of Sunday Life, The Stressed principals get life coaches in the Age January 12, Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words, Contemporary Cliches, Cant & Management Jargon Knopf 2004 The reporter as moralist in the Age Insight Saturday January Peter Geyer sells his ideas through training courses with mixed feelings regarding the
This article was originally written for the Australian Psychological type Review Vol 7 No 1, March 2005


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