Climbing (not football) is life
Everyone should be so lucky to know a Dani Rojas
In Season 1 of Ted Lasso, there is a Spanish soccer player named Dani Rojas. Dani’s whole life is playing soccer, except this is the UK, so it’s called football. Danny plays with pure love of the sport. He radiates joy as soon as he steps onto the field, and his passion for playing is infectious.
You can’t help but feel Dani’s excitement and get excited yourself. Football is life, Dani says over and again:
The beauty and power of Season 1 of Ted Lasso lie in its earnestness, its strait-down-the-middle assertion that people are inherently good. Released in August of 2020, Ted Lasso was almost radical in its positivity. It was a show about believing in yourself and others, at a time when no one wanted to believe anything.
The show chips away at cynicism, yours and mine, scene by scene, episode by episode, until you, even you, are on board, rooting for them, believing in them, and knowing, just knowing, that no matter what happens in the end, belief is better non-belief. Optimism is better than cynicism.
Ted, the coach, personifies American optimism, and the show is ostensibly about his clash with UK cynicism. Meanwhile, football-is-life Dani Rojas personifies pure joy and love for the sport.
I really love Ted Lasso Season 1 (can’t speak for Season 2… it lost me a few episodes in), and soccer is indeed a great sport—perhaps the greatest. But with all due respect to Dani, I believe rock climbing is life.
Not only is rock climbing life, but I have a friend in New Hampshire, also, coincidentally a Spaniard, whose pure love for the sport is infectious to all around him in precisely the same way as Rojas’ love for soccer inspires his teammates. His name is Jordi, and Jordi: this one’s for you.
Your love for climbing—your psych—makes all of us want to climb stronger, reach higher, try just once more, and try hard.
Climbing is nothing if not an internal struggle, a battle against your own fear, a measure of you against yourself. I love it because it is totally committing mentally, physically, and technically, and when something is so committing in all those areas it produces flow, and flow borders on the spiritual.
Climbing creates the same imperative to be present (and for that matter to pay attention to your breath) that is taught through meditation, or through other spiritual practices. I’ve even written how climbing is important for civilization itself.
The only other sport I’ve ever heard spoken of in this way is surfing, and indeed surfing seems to combine many of the same all-committing, you-against-your-fear, physical and mental skills that climbing does. In rock climbing, you commune with the rock, with mountains, with elemental forces; in surfing, you commune with powerful, elemental forces of the ocean and the waves.
What climbing has that surfing doesn’t (IMHO) is the need for a partner. This is a crucial distinction because when you need a partner, you need a community, and the climbing community is a special thing. Surfing is competitive with others—there is only so much space on that one, perfect wave. But climbing is cooperative. We all know we are all in this individually, and together.
To climb with Jordi at Rumney Rocks, a mile from my home in New Hampshire, is to experience the height of what a climbing community can be. Simply put, Jordi knows almost everyone. He’s climbed with them, he’s gotten psyched with them, projected with them, laughed, traded beta, shared a beer, or shared a ride. If you need a partner, he’ll connect you to someone he knows who might be going that day. If you need a project, he knows the perfect, next climb for you to get stoked on, and then his stoke becomes your stoke.
I once walked with Jordi from one end of the Rumney climbing area to another, passing six or seven crags along the way, and at every single crag on a random Fall day, Jordi knew someone and stopped to say hi. Everyone knows Jordi, because Jordi’s love for climbing is infectious and unforgettable. You want to be around it.
His love convinces you, climb by climb, day by day, inevitably, that climbing is life. I’m heading back to New Hampshire tomorrow, to get one more week of climbing in before heading to New Zealand for a month to see my sister and her family. It’s the last time I’ll see Jordi before he finally moves on from Rumney to other climbing areas and crags, and then back to Spain.
So, I will savor his company. Jordi: you are a true joy to be around, and I couldn’t be more grateful that you have been in my climbing life for the past two years. Thanks buddy 🧗 🤜🏼 🤟🏼.
P.S. By the way, Jordi has a new YouTube channel, Unsung Climbers. Check it out.