I can appreciate and indeed waste countless hours on mindless entertainment, and I will confess that many irretrievable hours of my waking life have been poured into such guilty pleasures as Downton Abbey, all of the Shopaholic books, Spongebob Squarepants, and perhaps most shamefully, during a particularly dark period of my existence, seasons one and two of Grey’s Anatomy.
After two seasons, however, my aesthetic sensibilities would no longer tolerate such sudsy muck and I felt a need to purge myself with a healthy dose of high-minded Sartre. As I recount the catalog of my transgressions, stricken with pangs of self-reproach and perhaps of moral compunction, I don the goggles o’ judgment and mount the staircase to my soapbox about sports--the idiocy, the inanity, the Lin-sanity, the whole nine yards.
Occasionally, when I find myself either intrigued by or coerced by social dictates and/or boredom into watching a _______ball game, I may get sucked into the anticipation, the angst, the admiration, but in the aftermath, I always wonder where my evening went and how fans can be so fixated on sweaty men with whom they have no relation getting a ball through a hoop, into an end zone, over a wall, etc.
No doubt it has mass appeal, is entertaining, and allows fans to vicariously celebrate the victories and lament the failures of a random group of men brought together and assigned to a certain franchise through talent, wealth, and the puzzling intricacies of a draft system that somehow establishes that group of men as the representatives of a particular locale, but the sports industry is finally an enterprise that capitalizes on society’s desire for spectacle and thoughtless diversion.
While I can admire, to an extent, physical prowess, and no one can deny that athletes spend interminable hours in training and practice, in the ultimate scheme of the universe they are but lowbrow entertainers who may have slightly longer appeal than last year’s bestsellers now on the clearance racks at Half Price. As history has proven, mental agility and intellectual genius possess much more staying power. Who can list any of the famous athletes who competed in the ancient Olympics? The annals of history have retained some of their names, but what do we truly know of their accomplishments? It is a different Greek festival, the Dionysia, that has left us with the celebrated names of Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, and even the less refined Aristophanes, along with the written texts of their dramas, lasting monuments to human civilization.
The principles underlying the world of sports hearken back to the primitive barbarism of the past, an elementary order in which might is right, the race is to the swift, and the battle to the strong. Admittedly, the intricate tomes of rules that govern the modern sports game render it faintly more civilized than the gladiatorial death match, but both serve the same purpose: to entertain the masses through spectacles of athletic achievement and failure.
Perhaps I run the risk of waxing doomsday prophet-esque, but are sports, like the games held in the Circus and Colosseum during the decline of the Roman empire, a distraction that keeps us from recognizing the insidious and imminent degeneration of our society? Perhaps all of this ranting is naught but a ruse, a thinly veiled attempt to sublimate my envy of athletic talent and to mask my own lack of physical coordination with purple prose. Or perhaps this is an oblique missive to the husband, a cry of desperation: get off Fantasy and study your medicine books/finish the book I asked you to read three years ago, please.
Photo courtesy of HargroveGasLogs.com.