I would add a few additional points about watching and following sports. One being that sports provide a rare synchronous experience that has been nearly eliminated from every other realm of public life and mass media. When every presidential address is pre-released, TV shows placed on Netflix, and headline stories cycle through websites at a speed of every two hours, sports provide a basis for common experience and allow people to speculate on a common uncertainty. There are no spoilers in sports and because of that it’s an area of discussion and debate, however vapid it may be.
Second, sports may provide the most visible example of functioning labor unions protecting the interests of their members. You can argue about their public relations strategy, but it’s a great opportunity for labor to make a statement on how they can make impacts on working conditions and member welfare, in addition to salary and benefit negotiations.
Additionally, as a follower mostly of college sports, I enjoy the representation of public institutions in sports. Yes, I know, these aren’t exactly ‘athlete scholars’, but representing an educational institution and creating common identity between its alumni and students seems a bit more worthy than representing a sponsor or an owner.
Posted by Ian R. on Jan 3, 2013 at 9:36 PM
Competition is a myopic view of achievement. Competition is a “state of rivalry” where efforts are tested. Collaborative preparation, effort, effectiveness and execution create opportunities for greater success (i.e. means to “win” or meet a goal). A runner doesn’t compete with the hill. When Bannister broke the 4 minute mile other runners didn’t compete against Bannister they worked to break the (4 min.) mark. Individuals collaborate with experts (books or otherwise) while teams work a structured, collaborative plan.
Posted by rikperry on Jan 5, 2013 at 8:31 AM
Pro sports labor unions are good examples of busted unions, in that they provide the least benefit to those who need it the most.
Posted by Richard_Pietrasz on Jan 5, 2013 at 2:40 PM
There is sport, and there is pro sport. The former is open to participation by most people. The latter is big business and entertainment, with its usual corruption. In USA, most pro sports teams, and athletes, are not only subsidized by the taxpayers, but make money out of killing babies and their families. The latter, of course, is via the advertising revenue from the military and major contractors.
Posted by Richard_Pietrasz on Jan 5, 2013 at 2:45 PM
“War minus the shooting” is better than war plus the shooting.
Posted by stevesailer on Jan 6, 2013 at 9:59 PM
As an innocent bystander I came late (and extremely
reluctantly) to participating in sport at 15, and continued only because a team
associated with my younger brother was desperate. By 16 I could see its value
with working class youngsters like myself, and was also assisting with training
and secretarial roles, and at 18 I had my first coaching success with a side
which undeservedly won the Premiership.
As a teacher it could be used to help lift school attendance,
involve students, and even improve academic performance; but that’s now all in
the past, as sport at the top level (as with much else in life) has become theatre,
money, and little else. A valuable tool (and it’s not the only one) has been
lost, and intellectually challenged ‘progressives’ find joy in this because
they haven’t the nous to appreciate the realities of human nature.
Forgive me for being so kind to them.
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 7, 2013 at 12:31 AM
I think it was Chomsky who said ‘sport is something that can safely be ignored’. He went on to describe the average fan as having ‘an irrational attitude of subservience to authority’. He elaborated on this by describing how the average fan was pretty ignorant about those things which should concern him/her e.g. politics, business affairs, medicine, etc, etc. But when it came to sport he had a raft of facts and figures and opinions in his/her grasp, e.g. who scored the winning goal in the match between Bohemians and Finn Harps in March 1974.
P.S. I think it might have been Brendan Bradley, but could be wrong.
Posted by Old Codger on Jan 7, 2013 at 4:32 AM
Of course sports is “war minus the shooting”. That is one of it’s purposes. When Low-tech peoples wish to release their young men’s warlike energies they hold a martial tourney(as described among the Maoris among others in John Keegan’s History of Warfare). When Italian Renaissance Burghers wished to do that they had a street brawl. Modern Westerners do that with athletic competition.
Posted by jason taylor on Jan 7, 2013 at 10:55 AM
Since liberal Jews own the media & sports franchises and since sports are about white boys and girls worshiping the athletically superior power of blacks, sports are cool, right?
It’s like leftists and feminists no longer oppose porn since it is Jewish-run propaganda that promotes black guys humping white women who are reduced to cumbucket sex meat to be sold and marketed.
Leftism has been about Jewish subversion of the white race.
Posted by Snapperhead Soup on Jan 7, 2013 at 12:14 PM
The idea that the left is against sports is a poor generalization that nevertheless captures a grain of the truth. The same can be said of this generalization: sports is training for capitalism. And capitalism is the compensation offered to warriors for not being warriors. If we are going to claim some of “the fun” for the leftist side, let it be in the making money department. That’s where the the power lies. And let knuckle-dragging continue to dilute its energy in games.
Posted by jonmonroe on Jan 7, 2013 at 3:48 PM
What this column doesn’t address—and a good reason lefitsts might want to view the professional sports industry complex with skepticism—is the colossal sportification of the rest of the culture. It’s impossible to escape, and I think Hitchens’ irritation with loud, frantic fan displays may have less to do with elitist disdain and more to do with the fact that, as an habitue of many a drinking hole, he found he could not escape them. Even relatively civilized places will have a huge flat-screen TV over the bar, in the lounge, somewhere, tuned to ESPN. And speaking of which, let’s not consider how sports programming pretty much has dominated broadcast and cable TV—it’s practically why cable TV, especially on-demand TV, exists. Meanwhile, every other channel (History, TLC, Discovery, Bravo, A&E) has turned to reality shows, which are often forms of humiliation games.
It’s not so much that sports is a manifestation of late-modern capitalism as it is that late-modern capitalism seems to have been swallowed by sports. As a professional culture journalist, I find it odd that such huge expenditures of time, public attention and corporate wealth are devoted to what, in the end, may be an ennobling facet of the entertainment industry, but ultimately, is still just a part of the entertainment industry. Yet each year, more people attend, say, live theater performances or go to art museums across the country (according to NEA data) than actually attend NFL or NHL games. You wouldn’t know that from what appears in newspapers, TV, radio programs, etc. By all means, the left should engage with the forces that sports tap into, but let’s not blind ourselves to what some of those forces are.
Posted by JeromeWeeks on Jan 7, 2013 at 4:09 PM
Games of sport were popular in the ancient world and were around long before the English school system. Travel anywhere in the world today where there is a patch of dirt or concrete and able bodies, and someone will patch together a soccer ball and start playing. The love of all of the aspects of athletics is a part of human nature and has been around for all of recorded history. Although I’m all for the author’s call to not let capitalists have all of the fun in sports, I think it’s a straw man argument. Men and women of all political persuasions and social classes have always enjoyed sports - from ancient cave dwellers to ancient Greece to the savannahs of Africa.
Posted by Christy on Jan 7, 2013 at 4:35 PM
Once upon a time crowds wenr to sport understanding what was happening. Now as the match progresses, whenever the television camera switches to a particular part of the stadium, the crowd in that area immediately erupt into chanting flag wavers. Does that tell us on what the ‘sports’ fans are concentrating?
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 7, 2013 at 8:52 PM
The first is a valid generalisation, but yours is an absurd nonsense. Consider studying logic and scientific method.
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 7, 2013 at 9:03 PM
I’m puzzled about your ancient cave dwellers claim and bemused by some of your other beliefs; but if you really believe males and females have the same innate interest in sport (and many other things) a handy primer is Moir and Jessel’s ‘Brainsex’.
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 7, 2013 at 9:03 PM
Logic AND scientific method? Nitwit.
Typical of your tribe, incidentally, you missed the irony.
Posted by jonmonroe on Jan 7, 2013 at 10:41 PM
I think many people who “oppose” sport actually oppose the brutal elements of some sports, and worry about the influence of that aspect on the individuals involved and generally on society. Whenever supporters call a sport “manly” it means physical violence is involved.
Boxing would head that list - “the art of self-defence” actually being the art of inflicting the maximum physical abuse on the opponent, up to and including (as the highest objective) knocking him unconscious. In the street, that would be a clear crime.
US football is similarly violent with its deliberate physical impacts on players not carrying the ball - fundamental to the game - meaning players need to wear body armour and helmets. viewed from afar, that is extraordinary. Rugby is less brutal, as deliberate blocking is forbidden, but still extremely physical. Just watch a scrum forming.. Football (soccer) further down the scale, although tackles to get possession of the ball often involving a player kicking the shins of the opponent.deliberately. Trying to injure key opponents is a subterranean tactic by some coaches.
All those ball games can have their inspiring, purely athletic, moments.
But compare and contrast baseball, cricket, and above all track and field (athletics) and swimming, whose Olympic champions and world record holders become worldwide heros (as do soccer stars).
Ridiculously abbreviated: contact sports bad, non-contact sports good.
Posted by Canehan on Jan 8, 2013 at 6:34 AM
errrr, I am against sport as I find it so unutterably BORING
Posted by Steve Meikle on Jan 8, 2013 at 8:03 AM
Not knowing how RGIII influenced inside the beltway thinking on the fiscal cliff
is how sport naifs are taken advantage of in larger situations.
Just because they do not care about it does not mean it has no influence over them.
Posted by Aptitude on Jan 8, 2013 at 12:53 PM
Good god, brother, reading this and your comment above is enough to depress anybody. Find a shrink, will you, and try to enjoy life a little.
Posted by Whoopdy Do on Jan 8, 2013 at 2:38 PM
Go watch “Rollerball” (the original James Caan version), ponder its sport-as-war theme, and realize Orwell was right. We’re better off cheering & paying outlandish sums to gladiators to put their lives on the line by choice, rather than for drones to perform assassination-by-rocket in Pakistan.
Posted by Whoopdy Do on Jan 8, 2013 at 2:51 PM
“Tribe?” Good god, Jon, what a snotnose you are. Yours must be a self-enclosed little profession, in which you don’t have to compete. Tenured professor, perhaps. Out here in the real life we gotta strive to survive, figuratively or literally. Is it so impossible for you to conceive that people take simply find enjoyment in competing and excelling, or watching others succeed?
Posted by Whoopdy Do on Jan 8, 2013 at 2:55 PM
Chomsky was the last one picked for his team in school.
Posted by Whoopdy Do on Jan 8, 2013 at 2:56 PM
Leftists have fun at making money? I thought they only had fun redistributing other people’s money. Until the “knuckle-draggers” who actually work for it tire of them….
Posted by Whoopdy Do on Jan 8, 2013 at 2:59 PM
To me, its run the ball up the field, run the ball down the field, run the ball up the field, run the ball down the field, run the ball up the field, run the ball down the field and so on and so forth.
Posted by Steve Shaw on Jan 8, 2013 at 7:50 PM
Steve, even GBS understood sport better than you do.
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:29 AM
Whoopy Do (a not inappropriate tag) your movie choice equates well with your grasp of international conflict.
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:33 AM
whoopy do, I’m relieved to find my earlier assessment of your understanding wasn’t unkind.
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:37 AM
jon, try coming to grips first with basice philosophy of science before you comment on logic and scientific method; but on your second assertion, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume you’ll never be a match for Swift.
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:52 AM
Keegan’s ‘gentle’ interpretation of human nature fits the postmodern zeitgeist, but Azar Gat’s [TLS 2006 book of the year award recipient] “war in Human Civilisation” is not only closer to human nature but also, and this is one of its stronger points, looks at war not in isolation but rather as part of the human condition.
One does, however, need to actually think about his evidence, and that’s a bridge too far for many of us?
Posted by Norman Hanscombe on Jan 9, 2013 at 2:05 AM
It’s hardly just Orwell or “progressives” who compare football and other sports to war. I hear sports commentators make this analogy all the time.
Posted by Brian on Jan 10, 2013 at 10:26 AM
Come on now - taking it all too seriously. Sports is fun and hard which makes it a challenge. Most of us dont get to chase a mammoth for food so we play sport because it’s a very human thing to do. That Lefties dont like it just makes it more right (no pun intended). It keeps us healthy and sane. It also helps us belong to a tribe either as a team member or as a fan. Of course sitting on your tail with a beer in hand watching the game may not be ideal it surely beats doing drugs or porn or fantasising about global warming.
Posted by Magnus on Jan 11, 2013 at 9:59 PM