Style points: arbitrary and fictitious, but necessary

Fact: Getting points is always more fun then losing them. This applies to points of all types, really: points on an exam, points on the field (of love and war), finger points and Power Points. Personally, there’s nothing more exciting then being rewarded with a full set of points. Extra points are nice as well, but let’s not get greedy. In sports, the principle becomes even more germane: points rule. Actually, for athletes, points are all that matter. You may be a nice guy or gal, but if you’re not scoring points, then you’re warming benches.

Touchdowns get us six and seven if we’re lucky, free throws get a solid one, and an ace on the court gets us 15. These systems of calibration are all old hat; we still rely on them game by game because, conventionally, they are used to measure the outcome. But what I don’t hear enough about are style points. Style is something that often gets overlooked in the most heinous of ways and I propose that we bring it back. Yes, I call for more style points, please!

In this day and age, stylish people receive a number of daily benefits about which the frumpy ones know nothing. Just for being stylish, a person can get away with a lot more: smiling at strangers, being short a dollar at G-Heav, simultaneously taking over four washing machines in a row. And style can be used to describe a number of different qualities, both physical and not. If you have a stylish talk, walk, new haircut, intonation, breathing pattern, flexibility or any other particularity, then the odds are that you know of the benefits about which I write.

I like to think that I ride the fine cusp between frumpy and stylish. Day by day, I fluctuate between the “on” and the “off” in terms of style. When I’m on, people notice; and when I’m off, ditto. I’ve seen the dirty looks on the “off days,” but I must say that the “on days” are inspiring. This is not new information. Generally speaking, we, as competent humans, know when we look good or speak well, and when we don’t. The problems arise when you think that you’re rocking like a star, and, from everyone else’s perspective, you’re obviously not. That process of ‘reigning-in the-crazy’ is what friends are for. How do you get friends? Be stylish. A vicious cycle! (But definitely not an unnecessary one) One of these days you have to make a good style choice. I’m sorry, that’s just how the world works.

Anyway, back to the benefits. Once I discovered how pleasurable the call-and-response system of style-and-reward works, I began to test the limits of my hypothesis. The results were mind-blowing. Exhibit A: I spoke with a southern drawl while hitting on a friend-of-a-friend and got a phone number. Counter-exhibit A: The very next day, I reverted to my old accent and was denied a summer internship. Exhibit B: I swear I was marked up on my last essay for scenting it with cologne, printing it on parchment paper and performing a dance ritual at the LC drop box. Counter-exhibit B: I messily scribbled a small but important Post-It note to my roommate, and he promptly lost it.

Observers are left to question: Were these instances the first in a series of unfortunate events, or damning evidence that style, does, in fact, rule? I say that it is the latter.

Based on these conclusions, the point system at work in athletics — which relies on crediting players and teams for physical prowess over style — seems to be missing the point. (Pun intended.)

Some sports, like gymnastics and skating, lend themselves to this new, highly efficient scoring system — tricks that require more skill are inevitably more pleasing to the eye (the first indicator of a style). Yet I still find that not enough props are given to the athlete who miraculously recovers after falling out of the air, or down on the ice, and turns tragedy into magic. The stylish failure is worth 10 times as much as the well-executed, but rather droll, triple-axel, I think. Especially if the athlete’s wearing well-fitting outfits.

A soccer goal is nice — one-point nice — but when the score is made with a header, or an over-the-head bicycle kick, shouldn’t it be worth more? The stylish athlete does better work and proffers a larger fan base. People will recognize him in the streets. His professional value ascends as he packs the stadium and generates more and more funding for the powers that be. Everyone wins when style is incorporated.

Take Venus and Serena Williams, for example. Their distinctively loud fashion sense is one of the most talked about style movements in the entire world of athletics. First their braids, then the earrings — did you know that collectively, the style-saavy pair has snagged 16 Grand Slam titles? Don’t think for a minute that their style didn’t play a role. Of course, they weren’t technically awarded any points for their style, but you can bet that their hot pink tennis skirts did some of the intimidation work for them.

Maybe athletes could make eloquent speeches before or after their competitions. Or perhaps sports should be played to music! Individualized by the choice of the athlete. What about mandating the wearing of funny hats? The possibilities for adding style to sports play are endless!

Imagine your best wide receiver goes for a long drive, when, all of the sudden, he slips short of the catch and the endzone. If he lets it fall, he’s done. All would be lost and not a single point world be awarded. But, imagine instead that he curls into a ball and dives to the ground. After three rolls forward, he pops out of his ball formation and plants both feet securely on the ground, no ball in sight. That kind of spirit and energy could win a gold medal at the Olympics; there’s no way such dedication to aesthetics shouldn’t be rewarded. I say, three points! Three points for a stylish finish! Whether or not the game play finds actual success in the physical sense of getting a ball into a goal, the composure of the athlete should be judged.

I don’t propose that there should be no systematic mode of scoring, just an additional one, an addendum to the rule book that outlines clearly how one can gain style points during play. There are certain rules and particular allowances that can and cannot be made. There is only one definite, unbreakable, adamantine requirement that cannot be denied by any stylish athlete: Originality — no one wants to watch last week’s game.

Charles Gariepy is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. His column appears on Wednesdays.

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