Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Philosophy of Team Sports

Despite a lifelong ambivalence to team sports, I feel it’s necessary to keep challenging your ideas, fears, likes and dislikes. So it was that I ended up at my first Turkish football game the other day. The result? I took up smoking for one night only. It was either that or kill myself more quickly.

But through the damp plastic seats, fluorescent lights and biting cold I wanted to dig deeper into my phobia. Where did it come from? Why don’t matching scarves and cleverly rhymed chants instil excitement and the burn of patriotism in me?

Did I suffer some team sports related tragedy? Was I hit by a ball at birth? Did my parents lock me in a cinema and play the Football World Cup on repeat for hours on end, Clockwork Orange style?


So then why is it that my eyes glaze over and my soul starts to whither whenever sports come within sight and sound?

To start with, it’s the balls. I just can’t fathom how it can be possible to find the throwing/passing/bouncing/kicking of a ball back and forth interesting. Sure, there’s some variation in the speed, height and power by which it can be moved, but it’s still a ball. Being propelled back and forth. I have more fun on a see-saw.

But more than that, it’s the mentality I find the most difficult to stomach. Sport develops some of the most intense anger, hatred and jealousy. Sure, there’s love there too, but it only lasts as long as one team’s winning and the other’s losing.

Affiliation to a team is rarely based on logical factors such as reasoned judgment about who is the best team, but almost always on inherited or circumstantial factors like who your father supports, where you are from or which team can afford the most talented players.

And so they trudge, the ‘supporters’. Decked in identical colours, with a similar mindset, ready to jump and clap and hug and cry for the team. As they gather, they begin to evoke old songs and chants which reinforce their love and devotion to a group of people they have never met and will never meet.

The team are intrinsically linked and dependent on each other. They are brought together not because of a genuine and mutual love and respect, but for the purpose of working towards the ‘greater good.’ Yes, an individual’s efforts are acknowledged, but it’s always done in the context of the ‘team.’ Sound familiar?

So there we have it: sports involve socialism, nationalism and patriotism. My most detested ‘isms’.

I knew it was more than just the balls.


Paul said...

Hey Sis its your bro, nice article though I woud argue that professional sport has far more to do with capitalism than socialism.

Professional sport team members are often bought from other provinces and countries, meaning they do not actually represent the mongols who support them. Rediculous sums of money are traded in order to perpetuate this farce.

It is a capitalist system that rewards ball kickers with millions of dollars while the humble hard worker slaves away on a paltry wage, and the starving and disenfranchised remain homeless and hopeless, in the worlds largest capitalist states.

I think its a tragedy that this system of gross inequity is championed by the capitalist system, which similarly rewards CEO's with million dollar pay packets for recieving sexual favours on lazy boy chairs for a living.

Tax them all I say! Build some nice hospitals, schools, and rehabilitation centres, for those affected by the capitalist tragedy.

Helen Simpson said...

Dear brother,

Yes the way professional sport functions is capitalist in nature, but the psychology behind it does have some socialist elements. Actually I was more referring to the collectivist mind set than anything else.

I never said that capitalism doesn't create some stupid markets :) But as long as no one is forcing me to be involved in it then it's not for me or anyone else to interfere. Criticism of the actual thing in question is another thing altogether.

No one is forcing you to reward 'ball kickers'... by choosing to watch a sports channel etc you are contributing to the award. If you don't like it, don't watch it. As you know, I don't.

Capitalism only rewards what is valued by an individual, so whatever 'humble hard workers are on a paltry wage' you are referring to are only paid what others deem as worthy. If they don't like it then they should produce something that is more valuable/get another job.

If I spend 15 hours a day creating elaborate sculptures out of aged cauliflower, should I get paid the wage of a doctor?

The problems in developing countries are a whole another issue, which has a lot more to do with overpopulation, corruption, import/export tariffs and lack of property rights and infrastructure.

Ok, enough ranting out of me for the day, I'm still jetlagged.

Miss you