No guts, no glory
There’s a new movement sweeping its way across Singapore. It’s gathering a cult-like following akin to Wild Wild Country on Netflix; as ubiquitous as tissue packets on empty tables at your friendly neighbourhood hawker centre; and yet, it’s as soothing to the soul as a cup of English breakfast tea (dash of milk, hold the sugar thanks) in a freezing air-conditioned Singapore office. What is it? Mindfulness.
Mindful of what? My first thoughts, exactly. In fact, I thought I was already mindful. I’m mindful to look back at my seat when I leave a café: Phone? Wallet? Overpriced sunglasses? Check, check, check. Mindful to wash my hands after visiting the bathroom: Hand dryer? Where are the paper towels! And mindful, some would say overzealously, to Instagram Story my shopping escapades: Should I buy this vintage green jumpsuit? Vote now. (Truth be told, tell me that it’s “exclusive to this store”, “just landed today” or it’s the “last one”, and I’m sold.)
“Have you lost your mind?” asks Anita Kapoor, as if quoting Meghan Trainor’s catchy little hook in ‘No Excuses’. “Open up your eyes,” she tells me. Yup, this co-host of our Esquire podcast, The Bite, is definitely a Megatron. “Mindfulness is not about remembering to leave the toilet seat down after you’ve done your business,” she continues. “It’s about being present and thankful for what you already have.” So, it’s basically being grateful? “I suppose, but also being aware of your thoughts and emotions.”
When brainstorming stories for this ‘Good Sport’ issue—sitting around our tables on Jalan Besar; what I like to call the ‘Brooklyn of Singapore’ because you have to cross a body of water (okay, it’s a rainwater canal) to reach our industrial hood, and we’re surrounded by dope AF cafes (find me at Chye Seng Huat Hardware for the best brew in town)—thoughts initially centred around sport, summer and good sportsmanship. As such, we have a dynamic fashion spread featuring Mohamed Noor Sarman, ballet master at the Singapore Dance Theatre (see ‘Dance is life’ on page 38); a cheeky visual guide on how to wear shorts by associate fashion editor Eugene Lim (head over to page 66); and a brilliant photo essay by Adam Moroz bringing together six landmark music venues in Austin, Texas (and encouraging the owners to praise their competitors, all in the spirit of good sportsmanship—see ‘Texas two-step’ on page 143).
Talking about Texas, our cover star this month is none other than Singapore’s golden boy, Joseph Schooling, who has been studying economics at The University of Texas in Austin for the last four years. There has been so much coverage of Schooling in Singapore—with shoots of him either in a slick suit or in a pool or sometimes both at the same time—that we wanted to portray him in a new light. We wanted to show him as the sporting maverick that he is. So we flew up to Texas, drove out to Lockhart (a quaint country town just outside Austin, and apparently, also the shoot location for one of the Transformer flicks), and handed Joseph a cowboy hat and a pair of boots. Fortuitously, both of his parents were also in town (to attend his school’s banquet), so I gave my interview questions to his dad, Colin (who has graced the cover of Esquire Singapore’s November 2016 issue), and let him at it. Because, let’s be honest, who wants to read yet another interview of Joseph by a journalist when you can have a frank heart-toheart chat between father and son? Precisely. (See the exclusive interview and shoot in ‘A maverick is born’ on page 124.)
However, the more we delved into this theme of ‘good sport’, the more we discovered how important mental strength—or more precisely, mental health—was to the whole equation of elite competition. As it turns out, mindfulness isn’t just an app on your iPhone reminding you to breathe. (Kapoor, I can see you rolling your eyes having just read that sentence.) Elite sportsmen and women are practising mindfulness in order to stay focused and give them their competitive edge (read Josh Sims’ story on meditation in sport on page 150). And, rather shockingly, with suicide as the leading cause of death for men in Australia under the age of 54, we wanted to get guys talking about their thoughts and emotions—and, hopefully, to break away from that rigid construct that ‘real men don’t cry’. What better way to get ‘real men’ talking than to profile athletes such as tennis legend Todd Woodbridge and Australian Olympic swimming champion James Roberts, about their battle with depression (check out ‘Sport’s dark side: elite sportsmen and depression’ by Jane Rocca on page 136). Kapoor, I see your Meghan Trainor lyrics and respond with this: I feel like a chip on my shoulders I feel like I’m losin’ my focus I feel like I’m losin’ my patience I feel like my thoughts in the basement… If Kendrick Lamar can open up about his feelings—be honest about his personal struggles with fame and success in his track, ‘Feel’—then, DAMN, we all sure can (see what I did there?). Honesty is Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff (it’s the new Grammy). No guts, no glory.