To no end save beauty: An Ode to Sport

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“A woman friend of mine said to me recently ‘I don’t understand what you find engrossing about overgrown men jumping all over each other.’ Now, I don’t know what other people see when they watch a football game, but what I don’t see is overgrown men jumping all over each other. I see the most intricate, complex and theoretical game in all of sport. A game that is at once utterly physical and completely mental.”

~~Robert Harrison, Introduction to In Praise of Athletic Beauty: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Saturday, September 17, 2005)

“Sport is a fascination in the true sense of the word – a phenomenon that manages to paralyze the eyes, something that endlessly attracts, without implying an explanation for its attraction.”

~~Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, In Praise of Athletic Beauty: A Conversation with Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Saturday, September 17, 2005)

 

What is sport?

We could go to the dictionary. But really, where’s that going to get us?

Many dismiss sport as mere entertainment, a distraction from the so-called ‘real world’. Some go so far as to label it a ‘waste of time’, as unimportant, as something for the ignorant. A pacifier? Unfortunately, sport is often dismissed as the realm of the lug-head, the oaf, the hooligan.

                                      

But is a good life only concerned with politics, with economics, with all the doings of everyday life? “It’s only a game,” they say. “This is important.” Why?

Why is watching sports considered inauthentic or as an escape from ‘real life’? Is it a distraction? Many would have you believe it is. But much of this resistance, this disdain for sport lies somewhere in division of what is ‘real’, of this world and important. Real life, reality is in your profession, in your material situation, in your day to day life. These are the things that matter. Sport is somewhere else, whimsical and luxurious. Something to be concerned with, engaged in at the expense of something more meaningful, something deeper. But what could be deeper than the sheer appreciation of beauty for it own sake?

Is not a full life one concerned with both the material concerns of life as well as the appreciation of beauty? For what is a human being but an animal capable of writing poetry, of dancing, of beating the goalie high glove-side!

Poetry is important. Dancing as well. So what exactly makes sport different from other forms of human expression? Why isn’t the perfect game, the winning goal, or a spectacular serve not comparable to the perfectly held high-note, the magnificent pirouette, or the stirring soliloquy?

So again, why is sport so often relegated to the sidelines of intelligent discussion?

It hasn’t always been this way. The early Olympians were demi-gods, almost transcendent in their straddling of the mortal and immortal realms. The Romans recognised the aesthetic qualities of sport, competition, in the perfect movement of the body through space, time, in the admiration for idealised form.

There is something almost transcendental about sport, something that unites us through the ages and across the world. It is a universal language. Something we can all understand.

 

Pindar wrote in praise of victory.

If ever a man strives

With all his soul's endeavour, sparing himself

Neither expense nor labour to attain

True excellence, then must we give to those

Who have achieved the goal, a proud tribute

Of lordly praise, and shun

All thoughts of envious jealousy.

To a poet's mind the gift is slight, to speak

A kind word for unnumbered toils, and build

For all to share a monument of beauty.

(Isthmian I, antistrophe 3)

 

Indeed, there is a certain existential centrality to sport.

The reality is present in the complexity, the intellectual and physical sophistication of the play. It is in the violence. All sport has at its core an essential violence, whether it be hidden as in tennis or out in the open like boxing. Indeed, the essentiality of boxing is in its violence. The nobility of putting oneself in front of death, of starring into the dark abyss of the human soul, of accepting the mostly suppressed rage that still dwells within us.

Sports such as football or hockey contextualise the violence. They ritualise violence. Re-enact it, play it out and legitimise it. But they also contain violence. Dispose of violence through intelligence. They complexify the violence and give it context. It separates the thug from the athlete, the brawler from the fighter.

A fist is a blunt weapon, but when used skilfully is turned into something of such accuracy and devastation...It turns the blunt to the sharp.

 

Jack Ramsey, the Hall of Fame coach of the Portland Trailblazers basketball club, when asked what he would want to do if he wasn’t coaching basketball, responded that he would like to teach dance.

 

Sport has the intransitive quality of being 'for itself'. No further justification or ‘reading’ is necessary. To win. To lose. Perfect emotions that leave no room for interpretation – and yet we continue to feel the need to interpret, to explain, to analyse... if only to fill TV time.

It is too often only discussed in terms of results, numbers, statistics. But is sport though merely a collection of statistics, of trades and free-agent signings? Is it nothing more than the results on the field and position on the leader board?

I was recently accosted by an acquaintance of mine. He was extolling the virtues of the third-line defensive pairing that the Vancouver Canucks were bringing into Nashville (they play hockey in Nashville? Huh.) and I must have had a decidedly blank look on my face as he interrupted his thought to ask whether I had a clue what he was talking about. I responded that indeed, no, I had not a clue what in fact he was on about. Shaking his head gravely, he stated that I wasn’t really a hockey fan, was I.

But, I am. I love hockey. The smooth back and forth, the speed, the quick pass, the streaking breakaway, the crashing hit. I love the epic struggles, the heroic triumphs, the noble defeats. I think there is nothing better than the seven-game series. But I could care less for the minutia of off-ice drama.

 

“I often hear from my colleagues who are astonished at how much time I invest in watching sport, being in the stadium, how much money I invest. No, this is not a marginal thing. It’s not where I relax. I can’t say that.”

~~Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

 

When we watch, we rarely do so passively. We ingest every move with our entire body. Emotions are released and we are allowed to feel fully, completely. Watching is to participate in the spectacle, to play a role.

William Carlos Williams wrote about the crowd at the baseball game...

the crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness  which delights them—

all the exciting detail  of the chase

and the escape, the error
the flash of genius—

all to no end save beauty
the eternal—

So in detail they, the crowd,
are beautiful 
for this
to be warned against
saluted and defied—
It is alive, venomous

it smiles grimly
its words cut—

The flashy female with her
mother, gets it—

The Jew gets it straight— it
is deadly, terrifying—

It is the Inquisition, the
Revolution

It is beauty itself
that lives

day by day in them
idly—

This is
the power of their faces

It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is

cheering, the crowd is laughing
in detail

permanently, seriously
without thought

 

“The reason we care about sport, the reason we follow teams and athletes year after year, often passing that allegiance down through generations, isn’t because of the spectacle, isn’t because of the superhuman feats. It is because they represent us, sometimes as symbols requiring much suspension of disbelief, sometimes in the most direct way possible... They represent our tribe, who we are, where we come from, where we live. That’s the core of a rooting interest – self affirmation, community affirmation, national affirmation, cheering for ourselves, for home.”

~~Stephen Brunt, Globe and Mail.

 

There is a Shakespearian quality to the important matches. The emotions are perfect, unadulterated by the outside, by other concerns, other realities, other subtleties. They are perfectly contained within the moment, within the play, within the game itself.

It is to be fully and completely in the moment, committed to the now.

It is in the triumph of overcoming adversity, the drama of improvisation, the heartbreak of loss and failure that so intrigues us. It is the perfection of human drama. The intrinsic worth of every moment explained in its very existence. Every moment, every decision, every exertion amplified and exposed. Every play revealed for the beauty and importance contained within it. Every moment meaningful.

We often overlook that sport is always and will forever be a tragedy. There are always more losers than winners. Every win is accompanied by loss. Every feat of heroics paralleled by an equally heroic feat of failure. For every victor, a thousand more vanquished and defeated.

To watch a competitor at the height of his skill, someone almost superhuman, lose, fail is to redeem our own failures, our own shortcomings. Their loss is our redemption, our salvation. Their losses make our own smaller, and remind us that in the end, loss is the most human of experiences.

It is in the end about loss, but more than that about the triumph of the human spirit as it rises above, that shakes itself off and tries again. It is about redemption....

We revel in our wins, but can always sympathise with the loser. For how many of us truly consider ourselves winners? No, I think that in our hearts, we are all losers. And while we do rejoice in victory, there is a lot of comfort in the losses.

 

 Sport, at its pinnacle, is a purely authentic human experience, and can be nothing but. It’s completely self-contained. It simply is. It needs no explanation.

It's human life reflected back on itself. It's fate, Fortuna, karma played out in real time.

 

We are sometimes told that more offense is better. But why? Who said more goals, more touchdowns, more baskets are better than fewer? I rarely watch sports highlights. A game is a whole. It is the balance. A balance between the offense and defence that is so beautiful, that makes the sport worth watching. It is in the resistance and the resistance overcome where we find the great plays, the moments of pure inspiration, of imagination and beauty.

We can see this in particular with those who will tell you baseball is boring. Baseball is a perfectly balanced sport in which offense and defence dance in harmony. Nothing happens you’ll hear them say. Nothing happens until something does. And then it’s an explosion. A moment of overcoming. And then the balance is restored, the game begins again. In baseball a perfect game is by definition a games in which ‘nothing happens’. And yet this could not be further from the truth. It is a game in which the pitcher (offense or defence...rather ambiguous if one were to really ponder it for a while) overcomes the resistance of the batters so completely that he able to make it appear as though nothing is happening. It is total domination.

And it is in this domination that the beauty is expressed.

To me, the beauty of sport is contained in the moment, on the field (or ice), in the expression of human will. It is in, as Kant would have it, the ‘purposefulness without purpose’ that sport finds its highest expression.

 

Sport is above all the physical expression of the human form and soul, the physical and metal, body and brain coordinated and acting as one. It is in the striving towards perfection, the overcoming, in the triumphs and defeats that the human story is told.

But in the end, sport can have no other end save the beauty of the human experience.

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18 comments

  • Comment Link Sarah Olson Friday, 27 May 2011 03:32 posted by Sarah Olson

    Lovely piece Andrew. I have to say your choices of images here are really great!

  • Comment Link David Forbes Sunday, 05 June 2011 18:44 posted by David Forbes

    Thank you for defending sports, it's extraordinary intrinsic qualities, the full presence and grace, the joy (apart from the commodified, sordid, sexist ones).

    Shameless self-serving plug: I wrote about teaching mindfulness/meditation working with inner city high school male football athletes and emphasized similar values--Boyz 2 Buddhas: Counseling Urban High School Male Athletes in the Zone (New York: Peter Lang, 2004

  • Comment Link Phil Thursday, 18 August 2011 12:23 posted by Phil

    A stunning article. I have the goose bumps that only things of meaning can call forth:-)

    And that without even a picture or mention of... ...Michael... ...Jooorndan.

    A parallel to cultural developement I also find fascinating in sports is found in the developement from the times of one man shows with support casts, to highly individuated, mutually empowering, collectives.

    Playing with advances in sports reflecting spiritual developement, or vice versa, I'm thinking of Micheal Jordan or Maradonna in sports and Osho or Adi Da in spirituality and their respective support casts. All in the not too distant past.

    Whereas today you can't really mention Dirk Nowitzky without Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and team. Or Messi without Xavi, Iniesta and co. Amazing team intelligence now dominates sports.

    And, you don't get Claire Zammit without Katherine Woodward Thomas and a host of other women on the edge of evolution. Next step integral is a team. We now have a Center for World Spirituality with a whole council of want-not-to-be gurus.

    Is this too far fetched?

    Do feel free to ruin my point. Any one of my favourite TEAM of prolifically talented writers at Beams and Struts;-)

    Love,

    Phil

  • Comment Link Andrew Baxter Wednesday, 24 August 2011 00:41 posted by Andrew Baxter

    Thanks Phil for your kind words. Your point is an interesting one, although I do wonder if it applies primarily to basketball.

    I must admit, I am not a basketball fan. Never have been, and to be honest, never will be. So I never had the privilege of actually watching number 23, Michael Jordan, play. I have however had the good fortune to have watched Steve Nash play, and I think it is with him that we see your point, if I am understanding it correctly, at it most immediate.

    As I have learned from friends who do in fact watch the NBA, it is a league dominated by individuals. Even (maybe especially) the great teams are really just an assortment of individuals. Steve Nash, that 'little' white kid from my home town - Victoria - blew that wide open. He won two league MVP awards (and probably should have won a third if not for, well...some shenanigans or another) on the back of his team play. No doubt an outstanding player in his own right, his creativity, his teamwork made everyone around him, his 'team', a whole lot better. He exemplified a different style of play, one not focused on personal glory but on the glory of the group.

    In a league dominated by an extreme individualism that seems now to reflect the dominant virtue in American culture at the moment, Steve Nash embodied a far different approach not simply to a game, but to life in general.

    I wonder what thoughts you might have on this subject as it pertains to baseball? - my preferred summer sport.

  • Comment Link Phil Wednesday, 24 August 2011 15:56 posted by Phil

    I think firstly, I'd like to say that I feel really out of my depth here at Beams and Struts. I've been reading around the site and it's mostly a few steps ahead of my intellect. Never the less, I'm fascinated and perhaps by some form of osmosis I can reach higher by engaging here. I hope you folks will bear with me!

    Yes, Andrew, I think my point does apply mainly to what I have observed in basketball (and soccer) lately. And the reality of the developments - both in sports and spirituality - is surely a lot more complex than the simple parallel I've suggested. My line: "Amazing team intelligence now dominates sports" is now producing a smile:-)

    It's basketball and soccer I've had an eye on. Especially the Dallas Mavericks and FC Barcelona. I find both a treat to watch. And a main ingredieant of that treat is how all players on the court/pitch seem to be awake, involved and contributing at all times. Whether they are in the lime light or not. And at the same time there are these amazing individual solos by players like Messi (who I believe is comparable to Maradona in his genius)

    It looks smooth and intelligent. Rather than take the option that makes me look best - be it a solo or a pass - the options are taken that are most intelligent and generative for the the team to score. Sometimes that means one player makes more plays. When it is the most creative option. When it works everyone looks good too.

    So, it's not that they're amping up teamwork as a compensation for lack of great individual skill or that individual showmanship is denounced as "showing off" or sacrificed to role-playing for the team.

    It seems to me that great individual talents are learning to come together in a new quality of teamwork. And that this type of cooperation is most beautiful and succesful. Solos in symphonies.

    I would say that players like Steve Nash - you pick a great example - who can do it all individually and empower their team mates, are the best building blocks for this quality of collective intelligence in sport. But they can't exemplify it alone as only a team can do this.

    It happens with Messi at Barca but it doesn't happen to such a degree with Messi for Argentina. So maybe it also takes a lot of work together for this to emerge.

    I agree, it's not focussed on personal glory but on the glory of the group or on the mission of the group. But the indiviual genius is not compromised either. Somehow it is all celebrated.

    I'll leave out the spirituality bit for now. It's just a weird hunch about the lower left quadrant.

    And I wish I could but I can't comment on baseball because I haven't even played it. I grew up in England and Germany and it doesn't really exist here. Is it possible that all players on a baseball team have to be more aware and collectively intelligent these days?

    Another point regarding your essay - and this might be what David is touching on - is what can be learned and tought through sports. Especially by young people. There's totality, timing, teamwork (that seems to be evolving), quick good decision making, sheer psyical health, fairnes, respectful fighting, awareness of all types and even meditation. All of that is so valuable.

    And perhaps it can be/is being honed to create more Steve Nashs and practice good approaches to life in general.

    But yes, sport's beauty is enough unto itself.

    To that end. Here's to the good old days where both teams could stand around, gaping, mesmerised by this guys one man show:


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8M2NgjvicA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USYEj9dc8Ko

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Friday, 26 August 2011 23:32 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Hey Phil, thanks for the great comments here, they led me to write a short spin off piece of my own.

    http://beamsandstruts.com/bits-a-pieces/item/567-solos-within-symphonies-the-case-of-michael-jordon

    Thanks for taking part and strengthening the nascent collective experiment/symphony here at Beams.

  • Comment Link Phil Sunday, 28 August 2011 22:28 posted by Phil

    It's my pleasure. I'm really enjoying the site, the symphony and its solos. Just working out, by trial and error, how I can contribute best "off the bench".

  • Comment Link Trish Shannon Wednesday, 14 September 2011 21:49 posted by Trish Shannon

    I actually like sports. Really. But when we spend more than a BILLION dollars on the Superbowl (aggregating the commercials, the inside seats, the rings, the hoopla, the prelude and the postlude), while libraries, parks, and schools are closing suggests something is wrong with how we "see" sports.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Thursday, 15 September 2011 22:59 posted by Philip Corkill

    OR that something is wrong with how we "see" libraries, parks, and schools.

    Probably both!

    And I'm really glad the Superbowl hype hasn't reached Germany and that soccer only has one break subject to rape by commercials (although, sadly, the prelude and postlude lack this intrinsic chastity belt).

    I think that spectators do actually participate in sporting events in more ways than are commonly seen. Especially live (our attention being one of our most precious gifts and collective attention one our least harnessed powers) but when I have a choice of whether to do or watch sport, I'll always go with DOING IT!

    In Germany there is still an active culture of playing amateur sports after you leave education, regardless of how gifted you are. This involvement in a club often lasts a whole lifetime. Do average citizens of North America actually play sports after they've left school? Or is Homer Simpson's " ...it is better to watch something than to do something..." a commonly practiced truth? (No offence intended, it's only a question)

    A Billion dollars is an unthinkably large some of money to me. Someone recently helped me picture it by saying: a million Euros is a 17 centimetre high pile of bills (notes in English). A billion is a 170 Meter high pile! (Obvious, but I'd never pictured it)

    What makes the Superbowl so attractive? Or what makes alternatives to watching it so repulsive? How did all that evolve?

    Do you see a way to make our parks and schools attractive enough for regular billion dollar investments? I’ll stop there. I’m reminding myself of my comments on another thread where Paul P hinted that wild speculations like this can lead to a “heady, caffeinated buzz” type of environment not conducive to what is actually needed. That maybe focusing on “deepening our relationship with what we already have” is more appropriate.

    After all cultivating a relationship of gratitude and appreciation for our parks and re-learning the value of ordinary education is probably more healthy than trying to get them to out attract the Superbowl! (thanks again Paul;-)

  • Comment Link Andrew Baxter Saturday, 24 September 2011 21:12 posted by Andrew Baxter

    Hi Trish,

    I think Phil's response to your statement is excellent, but let me just add my own two-cents.

    You're most certainly right - in my mind at least - that the sheer amount of money and resources poured into the Superbowl might just suggest that something is slightly amiss about our priorities as a society, but I don't think that the Superbowl has really much to do with sport.

    The Superbowl is a show, a performance, and expression of capitalist notions of 'entertainment', and should not be confused with the game that takes place on the field. That's something else. That's sport.

    I think the problem with how we "see" sports is precisely the failure by many to make the distinction between the show and the actual sport and has led, again in my opinion, to a general disdain for professional - and to a lesser extent amateur - sports by a large segment of leftist cultural critics.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Wednesday, 28 September 2011 16:45 posted by TJ Dawe

    Which leftist cultural critics?

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Thursday, 29 September 2011 19:34 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    How about the one that starts the essay??! And if you listen to the Entitled Opinions audio that Andrew links too, you will hear two professors at Stanford that talk about how they have to defend their love of sports with their colleagues.

    What Andrew is talking about I've also encountered for years. Does personal testimony count as 'examples/evidence' for you TJ?

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Thursday, 29 September 2011 21:25 posted by TJ Dawe

    Personal testimony does count, but it's impossible to verify, as opposed to public statements. This essay contains quotes from numerous intellectuals praising sport and describing its value. I know of some others as well, from Joseph Campbell, Woody Allen, and one of my favourite fiction writers, WP Kinsella, writes about baseball more than any other subject. I'm curious to know if there are equivalent comments from people in the public sphere expressing the opposite opinion.

  • Comment Link Juma Wood Saturday, 01 October 2011 03:49 posted by Juma Wood

    I remember an interview where Stephen Lewis referred to sport as barbaric, but darned if I could find the interview.

    I did find this link where he notes that he's not an enthusiast, but that he found the power of sport to contribute to social good through the Olympics.

    http://www.straight.com/article-288397/vancouver/stephen-lewis-values-sports-power-good

  • Comment Link Andrew Baxter Sunday, 02 October 2011 22:07 posted by Andrew Baxter

    Well TJ, I was not so much referring to any public intellectuals in particular, but rather the general class of leftist - and perhaps even rightists - cultural critics who often mistake the spectacle of sport for the sport itself, and can thereby be pretty dismissive of sport, watching sport, enjoying watching sport.

    But directly to your point, Noam Chomsky would be one. Someone I respect and admire deeply, but who seems to sometimes fail to make the distinction. Another would be Stephen Lewis who I heard once say that watching professional sports was not allowed in his house...'barbaric' he said. What's more, if you'll kindly refer to the podcast on which I based much of this piece, you'll hear two highly respected American intellectuals discuss how they are confronted on an almost daily basis by fellow Stanford luminaries with incredulity to their intense enjoyment of sports. As well, refer to any of the opposition to Vancouver's recent Winter Olympics, you'll find a deep reservoir of this contempt - amongst other things.

    Have you never in fact come across this attitude in your own life TJ? I find that hard to believe.

    But to be honest, I don't think it serves much of a purpose to get into a debate about how many people, or who likes sports and how many and who don't. I have to wonder out loud what end you are hoping to achieve with your query beyond compiling a list.

    I know for example that Chomsky enjoys watching basketball with his grandchildren. But does this negate anything I've said or the spirit of my piece? My point is not that more people hate sports that enjoy it - this would be patently false - it's that sports are too often considered outside of what might be considered civilised - and dare I say important - realm of human activity. We, as a society, revere ballet or the opera and would never dream of questioning the resources invested in a performance.

    So why such contempt for sports?

    We often confuse the show for the sport and so, as is rational on some level, we question sports as opposed to the systems that surround them.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Monday, 03 October 2011 23:38 posted by TJ Dawe

    The motivation behind my inquiry is another quote from Chomsky (not the sports one - I looked that up)(and you're right - he does conflate the game with its presentation).

    “It’s always a good idea to start by asking about the facts. Whenever you hear something said very confidently, the first thing that should come to mind is ‘wait a minute, is that true?’”

    As a non-sports fan, the premise of this essay, that sports needs to be defended as a legitimate interest for any thinking person, doesn’t resonate with me. I see massive acceptance and enthusiasm for sports, in the public, in government funding, in corporate sponsorship, in the media, in the arts, and in all the social circles I move in. The voices that disdain sport in public seem a tiny minority to me. In academia it might be different. I’m a stranger to that world.

    Personal testimony about what many say about sports can be exaggerated or misremembered. But public statements, direct quotes - those bolster an argument like steel, cement, flying buttresses, beams, struts...

  • Comment Link Andrew Baxter Tuesday, 11 October 2011 23:45 posted by Andrew Baxter

    Fair enough TJ, if the premise doesn't resonate with you, then, well, I guess it just doesn't. Nothing I'm going to say is going to make it so, so I will say no more on the subject.

    To be clear though, the premise is not that sports aren't accepted per se, but rather that they are routinely marginalised by certain classes of people within this society as 'escapism', and therefore irrelevant.

    So let me give you an example. The Canadian general election was held amidst this city's (Vancouver - you'll remember us, we held a riot in celebration of our eventual loss in the finals) Stanley Cup run. Game five of those same finals, Vancouver squeaked out a narrow victory to take a three games to two advantage in the series. The city was jubilant. The air was filled with the hoots and hollers of thousands of fans reveling in the win, and the experience was a shared one. As I and some friends made our way into the crowds downtown after the game to celebrate, one of those friends began lamenting the Conservative victory and decrying all the bad that was going to happen over the next four years and how terrible this all was. I told him to shut up and enjoy the hockey victory because that too was an important event.
    "Poppycock!" was his reply. "That game was exactly that, a game and has no relevance. What's important was the election. That will have a real impact on people."

    Okay, maybe not a verbatim reproduction of the conversation, but the spirit is captured. As we waded into the crowds, throngs of Canucks fans, young and old, men and women, black and white and yellow and slightly brown and dark brown almost but not quite black, were infused with a sense on oneness, of connectivity, of mutual embrace. For more than an hour we just strolled slowly up the street high-fiving, hugging, and hooting everybody that was within arms reach.

    For those hours, the city was unified. All the barriers that had once stood between us disappeared and we were one. That election is no doubt important and in many, many ways far more 'important' than that one game, but it divided us into yet more categories. That game brought us together.

    Hardly irrelevant or insignificant. It is the rejection and refutation of this attitude, prominent among a certain group of people I've been around my whole life that was the premise of my piece. It surprises me just a little that you have not shared this experience yourself. But oh well.

    More directly to your point however, I think what you see as the massive cultural acceptance of sports in society at large is generally premised on the marketability, the earning-capacity (or dreams thereof) of sporting events and not of sport itself. Our (Canadian) government's support of sports in the amateur realm is sparse and funding generally related to the higher profile - read potentially money-making and prestige bestowing - sports. (I mean we don't fund women's hockey like we do me because, well, no one will watch it.) Public subsidising of the building of sports stadiums is based exclusively on some model of economic development so completely divorced from the athletics that take place within it, that I would hesitate to call that support for sport per se. Corporate sponsorship equally so. Support in the media - outside of the sports pages - is generally associated with side stories and rarely on athletic excellence itself...and in the arts...well, I'm a stranger to that world, so I cannot comment.

    So overall I'm more reacting against the marginalisation of sport as if they were nothing more than childish pursuits worthy of comment but rarely of serious reflection or contemplation more than any particular statements made by any particular person.

    Cheers.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Sunday, 16 October 2011 00:38 posted by TJ Dawe

    It makes a great deal of sense to me that I wouldn't encounter this derision, because I'm not into sports. But as I've said - examples from the public sphere would satisfy me. I'd think that public declaration of sports being nothing more than childish pursuits by politicians, writers, entrepreneurs, professors, artists and other members of the intellectual class (like Chomsky and Stephen Lewis)(although there must be more than just the two of them, mustn't there?) would argue the case quite eloquently. At some points in my life I would have revelled in any statements to that effect, embracing them to bolster my own inability to tune into that particular frequency as proof of intellectual superiority. But I never heard or read any. Apart from that one Chomsky quote. Instead, my own book collection contains novels, short stories and essays by writers I love extolling the poetry, romance, suspense, vitality and spirituality of baseball, hockey, basketball, fishing, golf, boxing, wrestling, long distance running, horse racing, swimming, tennis, martial arts, soccer, football, etc.

    Can you imagine a politician getting elected anywhere in Canada or the US if they derided sports? I can't. Stephen Harper repeatedly spoke out against public funding of the arts, and was reelected with greater numbers. And imagine the public outcry if the budget of the 2010 Olympics - seven billion dollars - had been spent on a two week opera festival.

    The post Game Five celebration example you give is quite salient. It's always seemed to me like anyone with anything negative to say would be in the position you described your friend having been in: the lone grump in a sea of jubilant supporters, so out of tune with the zeitgeist that his complaint can be paraphrased with the antiquated and foppish word "poppycock." So why would the sneers of such a miniscule slice of the population have any more credibility than the odd person you might meet who doesn't like Bob Dylan, Charlie Chaplin, dogs, strawberries or sunny weather?

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