Much debate has arisen from the passing of Bobby Fischer as to what his status should be: Hero, or scumball.
I am no authority on chess, so I cannot properly put him in his rightful place in chess history. Nor am I an authority on the human soul, so I can't banish him to the realm we reserve for those we silently wish had never been born.
The big question is of course... should we separate a man's politics and beliefs from his accomplishments.
Many people today ridicule professional sports as being filled with egotistical cry-babies who are out of control, and above reproach due to the money they make and their station in life. Many claim that professional sports is devoid of role models, and that the public is to blame for continuing to throw money at these athletes who ruin their lives and the lives of others simply because they are never held accountable for their actions because they can "buy" their way out of trouble.
With this in mind, perhaps enshrining the memory of a man filled with such hate, who made very public his wish and will for the destruction of races and nations, is irresponsible and misleads the moral character of the upcoming generations. If they see that a man's character and appetites can be overlooked through accomplishment at the highest levels, if they feel that if they are gifted enough, their shortcomings will not be seen as character flaws, but simply as the price of genius... is this likely to become the norm of great men?
I don't know. I simply don't have the wisdom to see the truth in these things.
What I do know is tonight, my wife was not feeling well and was laying on the couch. I thought I'd rub her back a little in hopes of lifting her spirits. I carefully tried to slip in behind her on the couch, but in so doing I took up too much space and accidentally knocked her on to the floor.
We laughed, and she stated the obvious, "This couch was simply not built for two fat people to cuddle on."
Sadly it's true, I've definitely put on some pounds over the years, mostly due to my wife's good cooking. And while I wouldn't call my wife fat, I don't think she fits into those nice little nighties her friend's bought her when we got married.
Of course I'm loathe to liken someone putting on a few extra pounds to someone spewing hateful curses on entire nations of people. There's a big difference. There are things we look past, and there are things that make our blood boil.
But in the end we judge things according to their beauty and utility. My wife isn't as fit as she used to be, but she means so much to me, both in beauty and the things she does for me, which I can't even begin to list here. She fills so many needs for me that I know, come what may, pounds or sickness, my love and adoration for her is everlasting.
Maybe this is why it seems so easy to look past the ugly things that Bobby said in his life. He stood for some appalling things which I would fight and probably give my life trying to defeat. And yet, his chess, and his story is so beautiful, and of such worth to me, that I cannot help but remember him in a positive light.
I find it very interesting that he is remembered as "Bobby", and not Robert Fischer. Bobby is young, Bobby is green, Bobby is passionate and has a world of potential ahead of him. This is the man worth remembering, the Bobby who took the world by storm and made the chess board his footstool. The man who made chess gods tremble with fear, the man who made masters crumble in their seats, and the man who changed opening lines forever.
The man who had the top players of his time watching over their shoulders, and surrounding his board to kibitz game after game.
In the end it is up to everyone to remember him how they will, and to place their own importance on the man's chess and the man's politics. I only know that for myself, I feel the cost of laying the man's accomplishments and his games aside to balance past injustices is simply too great. I take too much joy in seeing the game through his eyes, and trying to understand (in some meager way) the way he played chess.
Beauty and utility seem to weigh in "Bobby's" favor... but that is just me.