I wanted to say a word about Sports, you know, organized sporting activities you participate in or watch in person or on TV. I’m not referring to Sport, the singular term, whose origins we associate with idyllic qualities of amateur athletes competing for God and country in pure contests such as the ancient Greek Olympic games. We hold up this ideal for the singular Sport term, long since tarnished by money and deceit and cheating; although these blemishes may have always been present. But my point is not to discuss a pure model for Sport, but to discuss the advantages of the Sports we have now, with all their warts.
There are many things we can expend our mental and emotional energies on including greed, vice, political causes, social media, narcissism, etc. I would submit that the following of, stopping short of total obsession with, sports is much less harmless than these others. Three examples. 1) Identification with sports teams encourages the study of the characteristics of these teams: their makeup, their DNA, their proclivities. This body of knowledge in the grand scheme of things may seem trivial, but it allows the development of logical and emotional theses (Ex. who is better? Why did they play that way?) and animated discussions with like-minded enthusiasts that stokes a cerebral need, even if agreements are rare. 2) Sports affection allows one to become the alter ego of a sports hero, i.e., to experience the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” This also seems, again short of obsession, healthy to me. With somewhat different circumstances growing up, with the decision to train in a certain sport instead of studying accounting, with (fill in the blank), we could have been that person on the victory stand. On fact, with 20-20 hindsight, we have thoughts on how we could have exceeded our hero. 3) Sports allows us to feel real a real emotional response to winning and losing just like our team. We can feel this knowing that the outcome does not affect our safety, security and overall quality of life (unless we’ve been betting on the outcomes). It is a parallel world, if you will, where the pleasure of the win is just as real as other pleasures, but the disappointment in the loss falls short of real life’s disappointments. As they say, “you win some, you lose some, but there’s usually a dance afterwards.”
If we think of sports as a hobby rather than a creed, I submit that one can exhibit a significant level of passion without inviting unhealthy responses from those one disagrees with, such as with politics or religion. It generally does no harm to others while providing a healthy outlet. I’ll go as far as saying, that if we didn’t have sports, we would have to invent them.