The Eric Clipperton story stands out to me. When I finished it, I felt as if it was just another Wallacian (?) anecdote for the impossibility of true freedom, or fulfillment, or both. I still think that it might be, but Coach Schtitt uses the Clipperton Suite to emphasize to the students that the only way to survive ETA and the Show is to avoid behaving like Clipperton, “when an ETA jr. whinges too loudly about some tennis-connected vicissitude or hardship or something, he’s invited to go chill for a bit in the Clipperton Suite, to maybe meditate on some of the other ways to succeed besides votaried self-transcendence and gut-sucking-in and hard daily slogging toward a distant goal you can maybe, if you get there, live with” (434). If we are to believe that Schtitt has a deeper understanding of how to navigate being a competitive tennis player, which I think both he and Lyle do, perhaps Schtitt’s use of the Clipperton Suite reveals a hopeful lifestyle–a rarity in IJ. In writing this I don’t want to ignore what Ryan posted: Clipperton is a lost kid from a terrible family which he’s trying to emotionally and mentally escape; he’s not interested in winning.
How does Schtitt understand Clipperton’s story? Perhaps Schtitt understands it quite simply as the alternative to happiness-destroying hard work if one wants tennis success, but that would assume that Schttit believes Clipperton found success. There’s only one measure by which Clipperton was successful, the NAJT rankings in a single issue, and upon reading that Clipperton summarily “obliterated his map and then some,” so it would be tough for Schtitt to hold that Clippeton had been successful. Unless Schtitt was implying that unearned success leads to map obliteration. Schtitt is obviously a big proponent of the work-until-you-drop pedagogy, but I think there’s more to his use of the Clipperton Suite than reminding his kids that they have to work hard if they want to be able to appreciate, or maybe just live with their success.
Schtitt’s understanding of Clipperton has little to do with tennis. It is much more about the value of “votaried self-transcendence” as a means of hiding from reality. I’m assuming that Schtit really has his Wallacian shit together and understands that there is in fact a reality defined by loneliness and misery and an impossibility of connection, and that he understands that that reality, if not tempered by something, leads quickly to playing tennis with a pistol to one’s forehead. For Schtitt, and potentially Wallace, avoiding suicide is about distraction, and the more thorough the distraction the less likely the lost human being is to lose it. In sum, I agree with Ryan’s assertions about Eric Clipperton, and think that so does Schtitt.