Saturday, Nov. 2, brought a third win in a row, 1-0 vs. Melfi, which lifted Castel Rigone into tenth place in Lega Pro Seconda Divisione B. The Giornale dell’Umbria, in its Sunday coverage, called Castel Rigone “la squadra che sa quello che vuole” (“the team that knows what it wants”). This seems an apt characterization. It reminded me of a phrase used by Socrates, in Book Ten of Plato’s Republic, to describe a harmonious man as someone who “minds his own business” (620c-d).
Near the end of the Republic, Socrates relates a didactic tale, the so-called “Myth of Er“. He describes how souls reincarnate into the waking world after spending a thousand years of afterlife either in happy reward or dismal punishment for their previous life. The wisdom a soul has developed both during their previous life and their afterlife influences the quality of choice for their next incarnation. Some reach for glory without noticing that their chosen life will end in tragedy, while others are more circumspect and less ambitious. Socrates’ example of a harmonious man is Odysseus, last to choose, and he takes his time to select a next life — one not, like his previous life, full of Constant Sorrow. When he finds such a life, neglected by everyone else, he realizes he would have chosen the same life had he been given first choice (Perseus text and translation):
κατὰ τύχην δὲ τὴν Ὀδυσσέως λαχοῦσαν πασῶν ὑστάτην αἱρησομένην ἰέναι, μνήμῃ δὲ
τῶν προτέρων πόνων φιλοτιμίας λελωφηκυῖαν ζητεῖν περιιοῦσαν χρόνον πολὺν βίον
ἀνδρὸς ἰδιώτου ἀπράγμονος, καὶ μόγις εὑρεῖν κείμενόν που καὶ παρημελημένον ὑπὸ
τῶν ἄλλων, καὶ εἰπεῖν ἰδοῦσαν ὅτι τὰ αὐτὰ ἂν ἔπραξεν καὶ πρώτη λαχοῦσα, καὶ
“And it fell out that the soul of Odysseus drew the last lot of all and came to make its choice, and, from memory of its former toils having flung away ambition, went about for a long time in quest of the life of an ordinary citizen who minded his own business, and with difficulty found it lying in some corner disregarded by the others, and upon seeing it said that it would have done the same had it drawn the first lot, and chose it gladly.”
Odysseus gets the ‘last straw’ — his soul has last choice, and this is “κατὰ τύχην” (“by chance”). It is key for Plato that a person’s virtue be the result of genuine, inner development, and not the result of external good fortune. It is easy to be ‘good’ if things go your way; how ‘good’ will you be when everything seems to turn against you? In this case, chance allows Odysseus greater consideration “χρόνον πολὺν” (“for a long time”), and he picks “βίον ἀνδρὸς ἰδιώτου ἀπράγμονος” (“the life of a simple un-meddlesome man”). πρᾶγμα means “deeds” or “acts,” and by extension, business or politics; ἀπράγμων means avoiding all that stuff.
A quiet life may seem to contrast with Odysseus’ previous incarnation as a resourceful hero. After all, his epithet in line 1 of the Odyssey is “πολύτροπον” (the Man of Many Ways). It is, however, an open question about how much Odysseus really wanted to have all those epic adventures (and then cleverly escape from them); did he instead reluctantly take on the burden of devising solutions to the grievous circumstances in which he found himself and his companions?
The word meaning a “simple, ordinary person” (“ἰδιώτης“) eventually (by a century later in Menander’s Samia) gathered a negative meaning that endures in English: “idiot.” Unpejoratively, what Plato means here is someone uncomplicated, who doesn’t try to tell others what to do (especially when they don’t have their own house in order). A person’s self-government ought to stem from the deep and deliberate — and therefore true — cultivation of a balanced soul. If all citizens had well-managed souls, then a community comprised of those citizens would necessarily be well-managed and just. The issue of how to have justice in a city (and thus a Just City) is what the Republic is about.
A few weeks back, Castel Rigone had tension between the coach and management, internal communication seemed problematic, and the team was not performing on the field. The response by the club, in firing the manager, was to re-establish and re-iterate principles. Castel Rigone has since emphasized “continuità,” and let results follow (and they have). It is nearly a third of the way through the season; the character of the club and the strength of its principles will continue to be tested. It is testing that anneals and reveals character.
If a person or a team conducts themselves with integrity, and they win, they are doubly fortunate. If they lose, they still have their integrity, and it is a good foundation on which to build for next time (just as souls in the Myth of Er have the opportunity to learn how better to choose lives). If a person or team conducts themselves without integrity (“at all costs”) and they succeed, they reap the immediate benefits of victory, but that victory is tainted. It may not nobly endure (just ask Lance Armstrong). If they lose, having behaved badly, they are doubly cursed.
Which brings us to a different brand of football altogether, and the tale of two offensive linemen on the Miami Dolphins: Richie Incognito (a veteran) and Jonathan Martin (in his second year). This breaking story involves abuse and disrespect, with Incognito, a “tortured soul,” harassing Martin, an un-meddlesome teammate. Perhaps Martin, who by all accounts displayed great dignity during the hazing he suffered, has been able to take some comfort from the Myth of Er in keeping his character; he was, after all, a Classics major at Stanford. One cannot help but think (and hope) that the tide of τύχη will begin to turn Martin’s way.
Official Lega Pro video highlights of the week 10 victory v. Melfi:
Cucinelli’s comments after the match (as reported 3 Nov. 2013, p. 30 in Giornale dell’Umbria). I was struck by the part about having lunch with the other team before the game; the Greeks were big fans of commensality:
“Abbiamo conquistato davvero una bella vittoria che ci dà continuità nei risultati. È stata una bella partita e una bella giornata insieme agli amici di Melfi con i quali abbiamo anche pranzato insieme. … Fra il primo e il secondo tempo sono rimasto favorevolmente impressionato dalla tranquillità del nostro allenatore. Ha parlato nello spogliatoio dicendo poche cose ma giuste e con carisma. La differenza fra chi, come noi, ha giocato sotto il fosso e chi, come lui, ha giocato con Maradona. C’è un clima nuovo adesso anche fra i giocatori e i risultati lo confermano.”
“We have indeed won a nice victory that gives us momentum in results. It was a good game and a nice day together with our Melfi friends with whom we also had lunch together. … Between the first and the second half I was impressed with the tranquility of our coach. He spoke in the locker room by saying just a few things — but proper things, and with charisma. This is the difference between those who, like us, played ‘in an abandoned lot’ and those who, like him, played with Maradona. There is now also a new atmosphere among the players and the results confirm this.”
I asked around about how to translate “sotto il fosso,” which is why it appears in single quotation marks. It sort of means ‘on the wrong side of the tracks,’ — basically, in a place that is the opposite of a proper playing field.