THE NEW AD­VEN­TURES OF SU­PER­MAN

Men's Health (UK) - - Editor’s Letter - TOBY WISE­MAN BSME EDITOR OF THE YEAR

Re­cently I watched my son play his first rugby match. It was meant to be foot­ball, but af­ter eight years of un­suc­cess­fully in­doc­tri­nat­ing him in the beau­ti­ful game, it was time for a change. With foot­ball, not only was the nat­u­ral skill ab­sent, so too was any ap­par­ent bond with the sport. Rugby might be dif­fer­ent, I thought: more pri­mal and di­rect, less re­liant on dex­ter­ity and in­nate pro­fi­ciency. And so it proved. He ran hap­haz­ardly but de­ter­minedly; he tack­led reck­lessly; he even scored a clumsy and ut­terly elat­ing last-minute try, a re­ward for his dogged pur­suit of the ball.

But se­ri­ously, who did I think I was? How con­de­scend­ing! There was me, half en­cour­ag­ing, half pity­ing this novice boy’s gutsy at­tempt to im­pose him­self on a game he didn’t un­der­stand. The sub­text of our con­ver­sa­tions be­fore­hand had been: “Don’t worry son, one day you’ll be like me.” But watch­ing him that af­ter­noon, I re­alised that one day I was all too like him.

What­ever sport I played as a kid, I never pos­sessed the ap­ti­tude or con­fi­dence that comes with in­her­ent tal­ent. I didn’t have the next pass in my head, or the courage to make the break, or the pres­ence to choose the smarter op­tion. In­stead, I ran hap­haz­ardly and per­se­vered un­til even­tu­ally I be­came not too bad at all. Not great, but half-de­cent. I un­der­stand now that this is what I should have been teach­ing the boy, rather than al­low­ing him to com­pare him­self un­favourably to the kids for whom all this comes in­stinc­tively.

Th­ese feel­ings came into fo­cus when edit­ing two pro­files in this is­sue. Kil­ian Jor­net, the preter­nat­u­rally gifted ath­lete who ran (ran!) up Ever­est in 17 hours, is the kind of man who turns us all into boys. We can­not com­pare, so do we just watch in awe? Or do we try and learn, lest we ac­cept def­er­ence as de­feat? It’s a ques­tion I haven’t yet an­swered. Mean­while, Henry Cav­ill, aka Su­per­man, op­er­ates in a world in which true per­for­mance doesn’t mat­ter so long as you look good in a tight out­fit. Yet rather than rely on CGI, stunt dou­bles and stu­dio trick­ery, the Jer­sey boy threw him­self into the study of mar­tial arts. It wasn’t his nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment; he could have faked it if he wanted. But he bat­tled and per­se­vered. He be­came more than de­cent. I think it’s a salu­tary les­son.

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