Speaking out against sports

It astonishes me sometimes to see how much information someone can hold with regards to a sports team, its current and former members and coaches, the winners of past tournaments and all the other numbers that sports are all about. I grew up with a father who was more intimate with rugby than with the details of my life. I tried desperately to take part in it and to understand it but felt myself bored by it. I look at sports fans drooling over the next game, or wasting strictly silly amounts of time talking about it. In fact I think the analysis of a rugby game is longer than the game itself. I have various problems with sport, and I think that it is a wart on an otherwise advanced society. Here is a non-exhaustive list of issues I have with it.

Problem number 1: Winners tend to win, losers tend to stay behind

Sport would be quite a bit more exciting if a different team  or individual won every year. This is not the case. In South Africa a team called the Blue Bulls win many rugby games. This is not an accident because it's merely the result of the team coming from an area where spending on rugby and school rugby are exceptionally high. All the money and effort usually pays off. They don't always win but they are statistically quite likely to win. If you look at score trends I am sure you will find that some teams are better than others. The funnier thing is that some teams are doomed from the start, but still take part as if they have some sort of chance. It is purely a numbers game, and the politics and players make little difference. The sum of effort and investment pays off into a successful result.

Problem number 2: Cheaters gonna cheat

It surprises me when people are shocked that some athletes get caught out for using performance enhancing drugs. Many of them get caught. The ones that get caught are not scraping the bottom of the barrel desperately trying to work their way up. Quite often they are at the very top of their respective sports. If Lance Armstrong is not a good example of this I don't know who is. Even a sport like Sumo wrestling, which is supposedly about honour, has cheaters. Watching these athletes perform somehow inspire people and when they are caught out they are ostracized and demonized. They are called out as if the are exceptions, and people believe that even though that famous one was a cheater, the other top performers somehow are not. Faith is restored in the sport after countless news articles, apologies, sackings and reversals of winnings. The arms race between cheaters and the ones that are tasked to catch them continues. In a system where cheating can reward you with 10's of millions of dollars it is no surprise to me that people cheat. With the prospect of that dangling in front of my face I can't promise that I would be honest.

Problem number 3: Your team wins sometimes, mine wins sometimes. SO WHAT?

The whole idea that someone else is competing on your behalf is insane, but what is more insane is how serious some people take it. Many violent beatings, and sometimes even murders have been perpetrated by bad losers who never even played the game. The trash talking, beer drinking, chest thumping sports fans are religiously dedicated to their teams, and are willing to defend their teams with violence if necessary. The problem is of course that sometimes your team wins, and sometimes your team loses. If your team wins the whole time you would be wasting your time watching them, and if they lost the whole time it would be equally pointless. If they win some of the time that is exciting and a loss should then be seen as a setback, only for the glory to be attained some other time. The problem with that is if you know your team will win sometimes and lose sometimes then any emotional investment is just a waste of time. Is it really worth the stress and violence? What can sport give you here that a good novel or a movie with a sneaky antagonist and a cunning hero can't give you?

Problem number 4: What a sick waste of money

I bet if you calculated all the money spent on sport every year we could have taken that money and built a moon base or made the international space station into a hotel for everyone to visit. We could have used that money for cancer research. Imagine if all the tournaments were "charity cups" where all the sponsorship money could go toward charities. Wait, what if instead we didn't have sport and the mars rover was sponsored by Mars bars, with a mars bar logo on the side. Golf players, however skilled are all just punting a little white ball around trying to find a hole for it. For that amazing feat they can earn millions. They did nothing for me or for you, and the people making a difference have to lobby with all their might to get the leftover money so they can do groundbreaking and important research or give food to the hungry.

Problem number 5: Sports fans needed! No education required, low intelligence preferred.

Sport is not the proper pastime for anyone who calls themselves an intellectual. Sport is an ever repeating, unchanging tedium made to distract instead of educate. Every minute you spend watching someone try to run really fast or jump really high, you could have been learning something interesting. I don't think that it should be surprising at all that some of the greatest things ever discovered and created were not done so between nine and five, but rather because of hobbies and interests beyond that. The greatest scientists, artists and poets did not come home and watch sports every day. They had interests that inspired them to do something and to create something rather than just be consumers of non-information. If everyone loved sport there would be little else in the world.

Apologetics be damned

Some people realise that the complaints above are valid, but try to defend sport as a form of entertainment, or something that brings people together somehow, or a thing that you spend money on to research related things that can advance technology. None of these apologies are complete nonsense, but to quickly fire through them: there are better forms of entertainment with more meaning like books and movies; the moon landing brought everyone together because it was humanity achieving something cool and the day we cure aids the whole world will once again be hi fiving each other; if you want to research something that betters humanity why not do it directly?

I don't think we have much to gain from sport. Robot Olympics: yes! People Olympics: no! Sports are a superfluous part of society that can be removed like the vestigial tail that it is. People will miss it, but only until a new season of Game Of Thrones, or a new Batman movie comes out. We can be a better society if we didn't spend money on massive stadiums, overboard sponsorships and religious dedication to people running, jumping and kicking things. Really.


Andrew said…
I never really thought of sport as actually being a negative aspect of society. I'm not sure if i agree (yet) but you make some good points.