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An Important Idea

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Today’s column is important.

Well, I think it is anyway, but I realise many of you may not agree.

That’s because the importance of something is often a matter of opinion.

The Africa Cup of Nations is in full swing at the moment so let’s use that competition as an example.

I suspect a lot of you remember what happened immediately after that picture at the top of the page was taken.

For those of you who don’t, the South African keeper let the ball through his hands and under his body for a very soft goal that sealed Algeria’s 3 – 1 victory in their opening match.

The score didn’t really reflect the balance of play but if you had money riding on the result that would have been the only thing that was important.

Also, if you are South African or have decided to back that team because the Zebras are not in the finals the result may have seemed quite important at the time.

On the other hand, if you don’t back or oppose them, or if you just don’t care about football, the result might not have mattered at all.

I am an American who divides my time between Botswana, England and the United States and I have no connection with any of the countries in the finals but I’ve still found myself passionately backing one of the teams in the games I’ve watched.

It’s fascinating, and the same sort of thing has happened when I’ve switched over to the coverage of the Australian Open tennis tournament.

When the established players are on the court I already have an idea whether I like them or not but even when two unknowns are playing, I soon find myself rooting for one of them and the result becomes important for me.

I think a lot of people are like that. They are called fans.

Fan, by the way, is short for fanatic, and unfortunately, being fanatical about something is not a good thing because it means you give that thing too much importance.

The reason I’m going on about this is that it carries on from the ‘Aging Gracefully’ column I wrote two weeks ago.

In that piece I suggested the reason a lot of older people can’t do many of the things they used to do isn’t because they got too old to do them, it is because somewhere along the line they decided to act their age and stopped trying.

What I’m suggesting today is that a big reason people stop doing things, especially competitive sports, is because they apply that same fanatical view of winning to the sports they like to play.

That means when winning is no longer a likely outcome, they stop taking part.

I’m also concerned that putting too much importance on winning stops kids and the rest of us from trying new things because we are afraid we will not be good enough.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, the way to stay young at heart is to keep doing the things you enjoy and to be open to new ideas and learning how to do new things.

Hopefully that will be easier if we can remember things are usually only as important as we think they are.