…because you’re a sports fan

Posted on April 23, 2009

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Worse than hunger or homelessness, this young boy faces the prospect of being unable to play organized sports *sob*

Worse than hunger or homelessness, this young boy faces the prospect of being unable to play organized sports *sob*

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with sports, but I think of sports fans as being — and I hope you won’t take this the wrong way —  kind of weak minded.

You become irrationally emotional over this or that particular team with which you have no real connection, yet nevertheless get depressed when “your” team loses, ecstatic when “your” team wins, and angry when “your” team is denigrated.

Why? I really don’t understand. It’s not like you actually know anyone on the team. You don’t hang out with the shortstop from the New York Yankees, or sling back beers with the defenseman for the Anaheim Ducks. Nobody from the Toronto Maple Leafs ever saved your life or loaned you money when you were broke. So why do you give a damn whether these teams win or lose?

On top of this, the teams themselves don’t stay the same from one year to the next. Players come and go, and the team you’re rooting for now is composed of entirely different players than it had five or six years ago.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Oh, I know, I know. You have a connection with the team because it represents your city. But how does it represent your city? Do any of the players actually come from your city? Do they even come from your country? When the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series a number of years ago, the players who made it happen were from either the United States or the Dominican Republic. Now how was that supposed to be a Toronto victory? Or a Canadian victory?

It’s not even like your city owns the team. Teams are owned by corporations or by rich individuals searching for a means to prop up their machismo.

The fact is, there is absolutely no connection between you and the teams you root for. The only reason to claim some kind of bond with them is a primitive longing to be a member of a tribe. It doesn’t matter whether you have anything in common with the people of this tribe, nor whether you’ve actually done anything to earn this inclusion.No, to belong you need merely proclaim your fealty to a team of strangers who play children’s games for a living.

And a very nice living they make, I might add. In fact, sports take up one hell of a lot of money on all levels. Cities which can’t manage to shell out a couple of million for the homeless somehow find it in their coffers to build stadiums and arenas costing hundreds of millions — and lose money in the process. Schools that can’t afford computers are pressured by parents and community groups to pony up for team equipment. And parents who are barely able to make the rent or mortgage payments are expected to pay hundreds of dollars for their childrens’ sports equipment, or risk being branded inadequate caregivers. A campaign by Canadian Tire shows a Depression-era waif mournfully looking for work. He’s not trying to get a job so he can eat, or live, or go to school. No, this pitiful child is too poor to afford the exorbitant cost necessary to join up with an organised sports team.

For Christ’s sake, kid, grab a few friends, a stick and ball, and play, if you want to!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those lefties who figure that any money not spent on social issues is money being paid directly to the devil. Nor do I hate sports in and of themselves. In school I was a star soccer player, never lost a 100 yard dash, and played a mean game of tennis.Admittedly I was never too keen on football — it seemed overburdened with pointless rules, and the action only lasted for a few seconds at a time. As for baseball…well, I’ve never been sure how something that requires the majority of  its participants to be completely inactive could actually be considered a “sport.”

The point is, I can understand the enjoyment that comes from playing sports. It’s fun to pit yourself against other people in a competition. But sports on this level can be played without infusions of vast fortunes or hours and hours of television coverage. Furthermore, the sports fans who attend are rooting for people they actually know or live close to.

Normal sports fandom, however, just seems to be a case of inadequate personalities in search of self-esteem.

Just look at the Olympics. I happen to live in a country with some of the most liberal human rights laws in the world. Our health care, while not without its problems, is still exceedingly generous, and our welfare system makes it difficult for anyone to actually starve. So I’m supposed to feel bad because some Canadian athletes go to the Olympics and fail to win a gold medal? Really? I’m supposed to feel humiliated as these coveted prizes go to countries which allow millions of their population to die of hunger and routinely jail their citizens for criticising the government ?

Just how screwed up are those priorities?

And now I’m inundated with commercials for the next Olympics (which is still a year away, for Christ’s sake) featuring earnest-looking young people urging me to support their “dream.” What dream? To run faster than anyone else? To fall down a hill and reach the bottom a split second before the rest of your competitors? That’s fine, if that’s what you want. But what do I get out of it? Or anyone else, for that matter? The desire to become an Olympic champion strikes me as the most selfish ambition a person can have. Don’t go trying to tell me that it’s for my benefit, or for the benefit of my country, because it isn’t. Not in the least. There isn’t a single benefit I or my country will get. No more tourists are going to bring their dollars to Canada because we win gold. No fewer tourists are going to come if we only win silver. No industry is going to be affected by our Olympic wins or losses. And certainly none of it is going to benefit me, personally. The “Olympic dream” is a dream only for those dreaming it, and it’s nonsense to pretend otherwise.

On the other hand, there are a hell of a lot of equally earnest young people who have dreams too: dreams to become research scientist, writers, mathematicians, doctors, lawyers, and a host of other ambitions, all of which actually put something back into society — but they’re not getting funded by corporations and federal agencies, there are no commercials asking their fellow countrymen to help make their dream come true.  And unlike the jocks, these kids aren’t being cheered on by their peers, they’re being called nerds and given wedgies.

So go ahead, try for a gold, silver or aluminum medal, and if you succeed, good for you. But it’s got nothing to do with me, and if they were honest, your fawning fans would admit that it has nothing to do with them, either.

These are games. Do you get it? They’re games. We used to play them when we were children, and while there might not be anything wrong with playing them as adults, they certainly shouldn’t occupy a significant part of our lives — especially if our involvement consists solely of rooting for a batch of strangers playing them.

The mind set that leads to strong, emotional, but irrational support of a group of strangers trying to hit a ball with a stick or to throw each other to the ground on a field is the same mind set that leads to strong, emotional, but irrational support of political parties and religious factions. It’s a deep, primitive need to belong, regardless of the cost or consequences.

And that’s why I don’t give a damn.

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