|This morning I listened to two fans of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (Canadian Football League) talk about how they had supported their team for forty years despite the fact it had only won the Grey Cup twice in all that time.
It reminded me of my experience as a young child going to football games with my father. He organized a bus that picked up about 30 fans from the area of Winnipeg in which we lived, drove us to the game and then back home again afterwards. I would often fall asleep on the bus on the way home, but I loved every moment of this experience, even though I wasn’t much of a football fan. I knew all the players’ names by heart, however.
In the winter seasons I would watch all the Montreal Canadiens hockey games, in black and white on TV Saturday nights, since we had no local professional hockey team in Winnipeg. Because of the time difference we would never see the first period, since it would have interfered with the dinnertime CBC news, which was sacrosanct. My walls were covered with black-and-white photos of Les Habitants best players like Boom Boom Geoffrion and Rocket Richard, most of them signed by the stars themselves. My parents were forced to buy hundreds of boxes of teas and dessert mixes so I could get the treasured plastic Hockey Coins inside, each depicting one of the 120 active players in the NHL at that time.
In my adult years I ceased to be a sports fan, preferring to play rather than watch, and while I still partake of hockey playoff pools, I rarely watch sports of any kind. I briefly cheered on the Toronto Blue Jays during their two back-to-back World Series championships, and got to know all the players then, but a year later they were all but forgotten. For all kinds of reasons I am boycotting the corrupt freakshow propaganda circus called the Olympics, this and every year.
I’ve tried to figure out why I watched sports, and why so many still do, but it’s hard to fathom. Although for many Americans (and Chinese) winning seems to be everything, fans in most of the rest of the world seem to enjoy the sport no matter who wins. The endless kitsch of propagandist Hollywood movies where American (“Yoo-Ess-Ay!”) team X or individual athlete Y overcomes staggering odds to become the champion (at the last moment, when all seems lost), and in the process he/they find true love, just makes me nauseous. (When the underdog-turned-champ is a Canadian, or a furry animal, it’s no better.)
There is something at work here besides insecure nationalistic vicarious competitiveness. Why do we watch sports?
I started paying attention to my own occasional spectator behaviour. I noticed that I was more attentive when “my” team was on offense than when they were on defense. After the game I felt the same no matter which team or individual won, unless there was some cruel injustice served up by cheaters or corrupt or inept officials, in either team’s favour, in which case I was sullen. The Hollywood movies play on this relentlessly, of course, since it’s a cheap way to stir up audiences. Hollywood does the same in the endless and banal “women as victim” movies, which are essentially identical to the sports propaganda movies except they involve women losers-turned-victors instead of men, and take place in homes and courtrooms instead of arenas.
But when it was just a game, and I somehow got caught up in it, it was a wonderful feeling at the end of the event (barring having to face terrible traffic going home). The more I thought about it, the more I concluded that we love to watch sports for two reasons that have nothing to do with competition:
Alas, in the context of ‘professional’ sports all of this comes at a major cost. Propagandists (from political thugs to opportunist corporatist advertisers) have exploited sports to the point of ruin, and disgust. Ticket prices for professional teams are obscene, relegating all but the elite who can tax-deduct them to the bleachers and TV screens. Most professional sports are replete with cheaters (drug users — performance-enhancing and pain-numbing — and judge bribers), bullies, and arrogant hacks both on the field and in the media. To come second is a disgrace, the media tell us — heads should roll. And the health and fitness level of sports watchers who would never dream of actually playing a sport is abysmal.
The solution, I think, is to find entertainments that provide us with the opportunity for affinity and to develop an impressive expertise, that are not competitive. That is, entertainments (like ballooning, hiking, and theatre-going — other than to theatres that show the aforementioned Hollywood schlock) in which there are no winners and losers, only good, enjoyable performances and those that could be improved (and we’re all armchair critics) and which, most importantly, are participative, both for our health and for our level of social and intellectual engagement.
I keep saying we need to re-learn to entertain ourselves. We suffer from a dreadful imaginative poverty in our modern world. We are unfit, both physically and in our creative and critical thinking capacity. For all our information sources, we are appallingly ignorant about history, geography, the arts, science, and what is going on in the world. And we are fiercely, unnecessarily and destructively competitive.
From now on, every time I am tempted to watch a “spectator sport”, or a mass media information or entertainment production, I am going to stop myself and ask: What could I be doing instead that is more collaborative, and more participative, and take myself off the sidelines and out of the chair and into action, doing something, cooperatively, with others.
I hope you will too. There is a difference between entertainment and fun, and we’re buying far too much of the former and taking part far toolittle in the latter.
Category: Our Culture
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
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