A sporting illustration of the nature vs. nurture argument occurred a few years ago when San Diego Horizon high school visited our Blythe, California Yellowjackets on our own playing field. The visiting team was ´naturally´ genetically gifted in one of the top scholastic and beefiest schools in San Diego county, while the Blythe bunch was a ´nurtured´ dirty dozen playing in one of the harshest environment on earth. The visitors outweighed the home team by about 15 pounds per body, but our boys had practiced double-day workouts throughout August with daily highs of never below 120F in preparation for the homecoming game.
I entered on the visitors´ side to go recognized as a teacher by the students and players who had been talking the game up all week. It was a starry night, 9pm and the field thermometer dipped to 100F at the kickoff. The Horizon visitors lined up holding hands along the sideline in front of me swaying gently in silent prayer until the referee´s whistle, as across the field the Yellowjackets piled on each other like a tumbled hive as the student body screamed like banshees.
I heard a ´Putt Putt´ over my shoulder and was started to see the town mosquito fogging machine rolling 10´ behind me on the running track along the sideline. The machine spewed a deadly spray that engulfed and rose above the bleachers and line of Horizon players like a San Francesco fog. Six species of flying insects fell dead on arrival from the field lights into the hair of the visiting team parents, and mothers squealed and left for Starbucks. One cheerleader fell to the ground clicking her heels in spasms and I waved for the nearby ambulance. Two football players went to their knees and vomited piles a short run from my feet.
Nature had been equalized by the heat and haze to give nurture an even chance.
The ref blew the kickoff whistle, and the two teams faced off. Our Yellowjackets ran the kickoff return through their staggering opponents for a touchdown. An early first-quarter three-point field goal put them up 10-0 on the scoreboard. In the second half, the poison wore out of the opposing team´s systems and the heat of the night settled to a tolerable 90F. Horizon battled back to 10-7, Blythe went on the board with a field goal, a safety for Horizon and when the game siren sounded the score stood 13-9 for the nurture boys.
The brute simplification by Francis Galton of the relative influences of heredity and environment on personal, business and social advancement was illuminated on the field that night. A person´s innate qualities will carry him past the masses unless he steps into an arena of greater familiarity by the opposition. Then the contest evens out and the result is unpredictable.