Saturday, February 17, 2018

Olympic Sherlockians

There is something pure about the Olympics. Not because sport is a better area of endeavor than some others -- lord knows they have their scandals and issues and BULL-CRAP JUDGES!!! on occasion, like any workplace or organized human activity. But it has a certain purity that has been found in Sherlockiana as well.

You know a figure skater's name and country, and you watch them perform. That's all.

Sure, TV commentators try to shape a narrative, play up an underdog angle, play down some bad behavior, but for most folks watching the Olympics, all they will ever know of this person is a few minutes of what they do best.

There are a whole lot of Sherlockians I know in this same way, both living and dead.

Vincent Starrett, for instance, is a prime example. He wrote a great poem. He also wrote a book that I am a little less enamored with, but still good work. Those are his three minutes on the ice at the Winter Olympics, and for most, all they will ever know. Now, you can go "Oh, we should learn so much more about him!" but do we want to learn too much? I'm old enough to remember people who knew Starrett in his later years, and there were a few tales of the embarrassing behaviors that some elderly wind up having in their decline. History tends to clean those up, but they're still there to know.

For those Sherlockians who don't have the comfortable distance of history, we sometimes enjoy their work as pure Sherlockians, their three minutes on the ice, but have a hard time dealing with their snarky voices on Facebook or some other social media. My good friend Bob Burr was a fine and accomplished Sherlockian, and seen as that by most, until he got a little too in love with occasionally trolling the Hounds of the Internet, at which point he started seeming more annoyance than good Sherlockian to some.

It's far too easy too know too much these days, and not just Sherlockian endeavors have their accomplishment in a particular form ruined by the knowledge of their creator's true humanity. Love a movie and then find out the director was a woman-abusing creep. Have a favorite book and find out the writer was a bit of a Nazi. We know far more than we ever did about everyone and everything, and it's taking its toll.

But, that said, we are Sherlockians. We follow a man named Sherlock Holmes.

And above all else, Sherlock Holmes knew that looking at the facts over the personal qualities, screening the data for what was truly important and not just his emotional reactions, was a key to getting to the bottom of anything. He still recognized a villain when he saw one, and did feel actual horror at the crimes of men like Charles Augustus Milverton. But in minor, everyday dealings, he overlooked the little personalia of someone's politics, their religious views, their opinions on astronomy . . . and he looked at their performance. What tobacco ash they dropped, what footprints they left, all the pure imprints they left upon the world.

Emulating Sherlock Holmes, even now, can be a helpful point of reference in navigating the Sherlockian world. Because we certainly have our Olympians out there, getting in their three minutes on the ice every single day.

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