“To be or not to be”, that is not the question. If you are reading this, you exist. Whether you like that or not, that’s your own issue. Rather, the pertinent question is: why do international friendlies exist? What comprises their very essence? Luckily, through a time and space warp continuum, great past philosophers & poets & writers recently met in a modern setting, drank some wine, and discussed a similar issue plaguing Greece thousands of years ago: non-Olympic friendlies between athletes. Keep in mind, this is a story I heard from my friend James who was told it by this one dude at a college party one night about ten years ago, so there may be some inconsistencies.
Here are their conclusions, if any.
AGATHON: With the sounds of music coming from the box of sound, the smoke in the air, the darkness and absence of illumination, I must say, my dear host, this seems more like a decrepit bath house than a proper meeting place for esteemed minds, don’t you think?
VIRGIL: Times have changed since your era and even my own, Agathon. Humans may now in this time use the “jukebox” instead of relying on the playing of instruments by live musicians. I apologize for the smoke in the air, but the only time available in our magical warping device was during an era of human history when there was not smoking bans. And the only open location was for this dive bar in Alexandria, Virginia.
AGATHON: It burns, it burns my ears! Do I hear the shriek of Sirens?
VIRGIL: No, good sir. It is Earth, Wind & Fire. I do believe we should step outside until this particular song ends. We must also not delay too much – near the end of the night, I have heard that the inebriated contemporary humans will play The Bad English and maybe even Journey.
AGATHON: Let us make haste, then, and move to the area I see labeled as a patio. Oh, look who is coming in near the side of the bar – our friends Socrates and Aristophanes!
VIRGIL: I’m so glad they made the trip. [Shouts over "Spinning Wheel"] Hey, Soc, Aristo, come over here. We’re about to head outside to escape this dreadful lyric.
SOCRATES: I actually quite enjoy it.
VIRGIL: Okay then, we’ll head out now and you can join us later. I think I see a table open.
AGATHON: So, Aristo, how was you trip along the time-warp continuum? Why did you guys take so long?
ARISTOPHANES: Oh, you can sit near the door. I’ll sit here. Well, the actual trip was quick, as you’d expect when bending space and time to join two points. We only got started late because Socrates wanted to see a friendly 800 meter race between a Spartan and Athenian athlete.
VIRGIL: A what? Friendly? I’m confused.
AGATHON: It’s when two athletes compete against each other but not in a real competition where they could win a trophy.
VIRGIL: Then why do it?
ARISTOPHANES: Is it art for art’s sake? Competition just to compete?
AGATHON: Zeus no. They normally split the gate and concession revenues.
VIRGIL: None of those terms make sense to me.
AGATHON: For our guide from the not so distant future who knows about dive bars and smoking bans, you are oddly out of the loop on Greek sport. Basically, they sell food at the competition. They also charge for people to watch. That leads to money being accrued which is then divided.
VIRGIL: Ahh, I see.
ARISTOPHANES: Hey, is Socrates in there slow-dancing by himself again?
AGATHON: Looks like it.
ARISTOPHANES: We should do something about it. I’ll go check on him.
VIRGIL: Sit down and close the door. They’re playing Cindi Lauper for Zeus’ sake. Socrates can take care of himself. So, back to the topic – these friendlies are really just concocted to make money?
ARISTOPHANES: Well, no, you probably can’t go that far. Some athletes used them as a quasi-practice – not quite a warmup, but too half-assed to be a true competition.
AGATHON: I have no problem with athletes earning their livelihood. If folks didn’t pay for plays, we’d all be broke as fuck.
ARISTOPHANES: But did we become artists merely for the exchange of money? Or does that merely allow us to exist and follow our chosen path?
VIRGIL: [Sighs] Here we go again…..
AGATHON: Says the guy sipping on house gin and hasn’t written anything readable since The Wasps….Calm down, sit down Aristo, you know I’m messing with you.
ARISTOPHANES: You poets are all the same, hidden in your offices or whatever and turning out poems to be read by only a few. It’s not my fault plays are my calling and handsomely profitable.
AGATHON: When you put in so much filler like singing choruses and disrespectful depictions of the Gods, how can you not turn a dime?
VIRGIL: Dime? What?
ARISTOPHANES: Hey, guys, Socrates is definitely dry-humping somebody in there right now.
VIRGIL: They’re playing Bon Jovi. Let it slide for now.
AGATHON: As I was saying – the play too directly appeals to the masses, and thus lowers itself to their often prurient and petty gut desires.
VIRGIL: Sit down Aristo. Come on, man.
ARISTOPAHNES: I’m not going to sit here and get shit on. My plays are no worse than friendlies, at least we can agree on that.
VIRGIL: Nobody was comparing your plays with that friendly concept, which sounds at least superficially at odds with the whole “competition” thing.
AGATHON: Sparta and Athens “friendly”, ha.
ARISTOPHANES: Guys, Socrates is definitely passed out, hunched over the bar, and that “bouncer fellow” is prodding him.
VIRGIL: Yeah, okay I’ll go check it out. But I am so not paying his drink tab this time.