Thursday, October 5, 2017

Evanston: BEING A.P.

        I expect that those of you who live in Ireland, and perhaps throughout the U.K., know of the jockey, A.P. McCoy.  I do not follow horse racing and had not heard of him until I watched BEING A.P. on Netflix.  More than just a champion jockey, he was a champion of champions and set records that may never be surpassed.
        I came across BEING A.P., as well as BREAKING 2, in a NY TIMES piece about offbeat sports documentaries.
        Here is what they wrote about A.P.

The single-minded obsession of truly elite athletes can be both awe-inspiring and disturbing because their pursuit of glory often comes at the expense of all other considerations. “Being A.P.” follows Tony “A.P.” McCoy in his 21st and final year as a record-setting British jockey, capping an absurd 20-year run at the top of the rankings, during which he notched more than 4,000 victories. McCoy competed in the National Hunt, a form of horse racing that requires jockeys to leap over hurdles and other dangerous obstacles, which led him to sustain dozens of fractures all over his body. McCoy’s willingness to fight through enormous pain is astonishing, but the documentary implies that life off the saddle may be tougher for him to wrangle.

        I must comment on the first sentence which obviously was written by someone who has no understanding of those who pursue true excellence.  I am not sure that is an obsession, and I don’t know that ‘glory’ is what is being pursued, but of course it comes at the expense of everything else.  Such people do not lead balanced normal lives.  Not until I was far older than A.P. did I accept compromises that have enabled me to have a lasting relationship, and, believing that artists should not have children, I never did.
        The film is about far more than racing.  A.P. is married with two small children.  His wife wants him to retire.  The riding he does can easily result in crippling injury or death.  I do not know the statistics, but I expect it is far more dangerous than driving a Formula One race car.  A.P.  knows that it is time.  He wants to go out on top.  But he cannot imagine a life when he no longer rides, when he no longer does what defines him and he loves.
        I am sitting in our living room.  Outside the leaves are turning golden.  A blue sky.  The windows are open.  Noise of the city coming in.  
        Although Carol is skeptical, I don’t believe I will circumnavigate again.  But, though the time may come, I can't imagine a life without an ocean passage before me.  No.  That's not true.  I can imagine such a life.  But like A.P., I don't want to.