Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Schizo for the genius.

There was an article in the Bulletin today about Johnny McDermott, the first American golfer to win the U.S. Open. He won in 1911 at the age of 19, and then again in 1912.

Then...he went nuts.

The article terms it a "mystery", and looks for reasons; "fragile mind," pressure from the golf gods, I suppose.

Combine this with a recent documentary I saw on Bobby Fischer, which tried to explain his madness as a result of his genius.

Well. no. At least, not mostly I don't think. (Obviously, I'm no doctor.)

They both had the onset of schizophrenia at about the usual age. Early 20's. Fischer managed to hold on to his mind a little longer, but it's pretty obvious he was suffering from his late teens on.

Anyway, they weren't crazy because of their genius, but geniuses despite their illness.

It must be particularly poignant for someone to be so successful so early, and then have this happen to them. But it's what happens with the disease.

People seem to want to romanticize these diseases -- long after the fact, because almost no one would be willing to put up with the behavior while they are still around. But for the sufferers, there is nothing romantic about it.


H. Bruce Miller said...

I agree with you, basically. But there do seem to be an unusual number of world-caliber chess players who were mentally ill, or at least a little bit "off." I think it takes a very unusual kind of person to devote the countless hours of study and develop the intense focus and almost superhuman concentration needed to be a top-ranked chess player.

Anonymous said...

Correlation is not causation.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Didn't say it was. But the correlation is interesting.