LA Confidential: Single Combat
A guest post this morning from Limpar Assist.
In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe ponders the question – why are the press aroused to create instant heroes out of men? In his case – those men were astronauts. In ours, for some reason, they are footballers.
Here I doctor, butcher and twist Wolfe’s pondering – to suit my own spurious point.
Wolfe on heroes: “The very language of the proposition has long since been abandoned and forgotten. The forgotten term, left behind in the superstitious past, was single combat.
Single combat had been common throughout the world in the pre-Christian era and endured in some places through the Middle Ages. In single combat the mightiest soldier of one army would fight the mightiest soldier of the other army as a substitute for a pitched battle between entire forces. In some cases the combat would pit small teams of warriors against one another. Single combat was not seen as a humanitarian substitute for wholesale slaughter until late in its history. That was a Christian reinterpretation of the practice. Originally it had a magical meaning. In ancient China, first the champion warriors would fight to the death as a “testing of fate,” and then the entire armies would fight, emboldened or demoralized by the outcome of the single combat. Before Mohammed’s first battle as the warrior-prophet, the Battle of Badr, three of Mohammed’s men challenged the Meccans to pick out any three of their soldiers to fight in single combat, proceeded to destroy them with all due ceremony, whereupon Mohammed’s entire force routed the entire Meccan force. In other cases, however, the single combat settled the affair, and there was no full-scale battle, as when the Vandal and Aleman Armies confronted each other in Spain in the fifth century A.D. They believed that the gods determined the outcome of single combat; therefore, it was useless for the losing side to engage in a full-scale battle. The Old Testament story of David and Goliath is precisely that: a story of single combat that demoralizes the losing side. The gigantic Goliath, with his brass helmet, coat of mail, and ornate greaves, is described as the Philistine “champion” (the direct ancestor of Ryan Shawcross) who comes forth to challenge the Israelites to send forth a man to fight him (I’m thinking: Yossi Benayoun); the proposition being that whoever loses, his people will become the slaves of the other side. Before going out to meet Goliath, David (Yossi) – an unknown volunteer commoner (bit harsh) – is given King Saul’s own decorative armour (Thierry Henry’s left shin pad), although he declines to wear it. When he kills Goliath, the Philistines (Potters) regard this as such a terrible sign that they flee and are pursued and slaughtered.
Naturally the brave lads chosen for single combat enjoyed a very special status in the army and among their people (David was installed in the royal household and eventually superseded Saul’s own sons and became king). They were revered and extolled, songs and poems were written about them (YOSSI BENAYOUN! BENAYOUN! YOSSI BENAYOUN!), every reasonable comfort and honour was given them (including, in some cases, chrome plated Mercedes McLaren SLRs), and women and children and even grown men were moved to tears in their presence (especially in the knock-out stages of cup competitions). Part of this outpouring of emotion and attention was the simple response of a grateful people to men who were willing to risk their lives to protect them. But there was also a certain calculation behind it. The steady pressure of fame and honour tended to embolden the lads still further by constantly reminding them that the fate of the entire people was involved in their performance in battle. At the same time – and this was no small thing in such a high-risk occupation – the honour and glory were in many cases rewards before the fact; on account, as it were. Archaic cultures were quite willing to elevate their single-combat fighters to heroic status even before their blood was let (Welcome, Prince Poldi!), because it was such an effective incentive. Any young man who entered the corps would get his rewards here on earth, “up front,” to use the current phrase, come what may.
So, as our single combat warriors prepare to do battle for us once again this season, let’s do as we always have done, and embolden them with up-front glory and unconditional support. The ACLF way.
Come on, The Arsenal.