Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why Does He Like Sports So Much????

The culture of sports in our society, like most things in our society, is OUT OF CONTROL. The physical and psychological pressure on athletes, the preposterous amounts of money involved, the 24/7 media hyper-analysis, the scandals, the fact that athletes sacrifice their real life for their careers, etc. I know all this and it causes me great sorrow. But I still love sports. Why?

The fact is that I haven't worked out all the reasons myself yet. I have always been a sports nut. I don't think it contradicts my philosophical side. I used to love to play sports. I can't do much in the way of sports anymore, but I do love to watch. There are many reasons, but one of them is this: Sports is, in our culture, a realm in which realism still prevails (at least on the field or court). You are not allowed to have a personal interpretation of whether or not it was a basket. You can't say, "well, it was a basket for me even though it might not have been a basket for you." It either went through the hoop or it didn't. Period. There are rules, boundaries, the need for effort, the need to pay attention to other people, the need to submit to objective facts that you can't bend with your own mind. This is fundamentally good and healthy.

At least on the field, sports have preserved the context necessary for some kind of real human drama, even if it is only play. We do, after all, need "play" in our lives. It is hard, however, to bracket out the monstrous business of the sports industry, and how it devours people (although it should also be said that many good people work in the sports profession, and sports on various levels make many positive contributions to our community--like everything else in our world, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly). And there are many things in our culture that are much worse.

As I said, the bottom line on the playing field is that you have to deal with reality. In my profession, academia, you can say anything you want about anything you want and call it "interpretation" (as long as you know how to manipulate the system, push the right buttons, ride the prevailing trends). In sports, you've got to sink that jump shot. The real ball has to go through a real hoop. When the game starts, there is no huckstering, politics, or distortion. There is a field or a court and you've got to use it. You've got to play by the rules. That's what I find refreshing and hopeful about sports.