Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Perfection

In several days, we, as witnesses to what many would characterize as otherwise trivial events, will have the opportunity to behold a most uncommon occurrence. Perfection. The New England Patriots stand at the doorway to the rarest of hallowed halls: a perfect season. Now, many pundits and statistics crunchers will debate the merits and criteria of labeling even an undefeated season as “perfect.” These critics will attempt to define perfection to their standard, throwing figures and statistics around until they find an argument that they feel invalidates part of this historical achievement. The flaw in this argument is, of course, that in sports, as in much of life, there is only one statistic that counts. By this measure, the Patriots case for perfection is impervious.

There are some observers, however, that choose to steer the argument in a different direction. These critics honor the relevance of this moment, but contend that a Patriots loss would carry more historical significance. Many who hold this opinion point to past brushes with greatness that have come up short; momentous failures that hold the public attention. Could it be true when future analysts revisit the Patriots 2007 season, they will find an event of greater historical significance if the Patriots are to fail?

Perfection, obtainable in this case by a Patriot's victory, is debatable in the same manner as is eternity, that is to say, we grasp it's concept, but we cannot truly grasp its embodiments. Perfection, like eternity, is inhuman. While we can marvel at what we conceive of this accomplishment, it could be compared to a sightseeing trip in the Alps on a cloudy day.
The dissection of imperfection is an indulgence of self-gratification, an invitation to the ordinary, a self-validation for those who conduct the debate. We bemuse the seeming perfection of Tom Brady's wardrobe, we point to the what-ifs, and could have beens.

Aristotle gave us the most concise definition of the word:
1. Something that is complete.
2. Something that is so good nothing of the kind could be better.
3. Something that has achieved its purpose.

Perfection is an absolute, yet is indefensible; even Aristotle’s definition fails to illustrate the crux of the matter: it is an absolute that cannot be quantified. More appropriate is Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's categorization of obscenity: "I know it when I see it."Like faith, in its truest from, perfection cannot be debated. Therein lies it's paradoxical flaw: no topic makes for worse discussion than true perfection. Once achieved, perfection brings us to agreement, to comparisons with past perfections and to the end of meaningful debate.We therefore can agree that while a Patriots loss, and subsequent relegation to the ranks of the imperfect, would make for better conversation, the assumption must be held that the attainment of perfection would yield even greater enrichment of the sports landscape without saying a word.