Monday, February 20, 2006

age, ski jumping, and desistance

according to olympic commentators, the best ski jumpers are baby ski jumpers. this is because ski jumping involves convincing one's body to do something that one's brain regards as, well, stupid. as any former teenager will tell you, really stupid physical tasks are most reliably accomplished in youth.

one would think that older athletes might fare better at events privileging mind control, whereas the kids might prevail in events privileging speed and strength. instead, fortysomething cross-country skiers such as hilde pedersen sieze medals in grueling tests of endurance, while nervy nineteen year olds take gold in ski jumping.

watching the broadcast, i saw close parallels between ski jumping and desistance from crime and other risk behaviors. i'll bet that the age/ski-jumping curve follows the age/crime and age/accident curves. no, i'm not always thinking about crime. for instance, i also wondered whether jumpers and spectators might enjoy a warm landing pool of delicious banana cream pudding. more seriously, i marveled at the quaint sexist rationale that keeps women from participating: international ski federation president gian franco kasper says ski jumping "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view." sounds like pre-rosie the riveter talk to me, gian franco.

like many boys and girls, i recall summoning up the courage to do really stupid things as a teenager (just jump! do it!) that today i'd reject without a second thought. i suppose this is why keeping the edge becomes such a preoccupation as we get a little older. i'm tempted to challenge my lad to a ski jumping contest, but not until i get some action on this pudding idea.

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