What Role for Sports in Life? The Victorious and the Self-Defeated

Hey, fellas.

A recent post by the Booby got him thinking about sports. Yes, sports. Well, why shouldn’t we talk seriously about sports?! Most of us at some point or other have gotten involved, either as players or spectators. When you think about it, sports comprise a strangely large part in peoples’ thoughts, conversations, and lives.

Sports are one of the greatest human social inventions, especially for the males of a species that evolved as hunter-gatherers and warriors. But it is also for this reason that we must keep our love of sports in perspective. How much or how little time we spend immersed in this activity is a personal matter, and can be either self-affirming or self-defeating, depending on our view of life and of the big picture.

Let the Booby explain:

You see, as the Booby sees it, sports serve at least three major functions for us fellas: 1) catharsis, 2) fitness, and 3) entertainment. However, a lack of moderation can carry all of these functions to self-defeating extremes. How much passion for sports is too much depends largely upon the individual and his circumstances.

Catharsis

“Catharsis” is just a healthy way of “letting it all out”. We fellas are possessed with certain instincts and tendencies which were once of utmost importance to our tribal ancestors, and are sometimes just as important to us moderns, too. These include both aggressive and defensive behaviours, and tendencies toward combat and competition.

The beauty of sports is that it allows us to flex our muscles, both physically and psychologically. Personal combat between men can take many forms, from boxing to wrestling to mixed martial arts.

mma-1320070_1920
Mixed martial arts are one the rawest and most gruelling forms of contained hand-to-hand combat.

Photo: Mirko Zax

Of course, our attraction to combat isn’t just limited to two men duking it out. Team sports are an even more cathartic exercise of the human war-instinct. Games like football, rugby, hockey, and basketball are virtually mini-reenactments of the act of warfare, complete with uniforms, missions, flags, physical contact, spilling of blood, as well as stadiums full of ordinary citizens cheering their warriors on to glory and victory.

This is what we humans do, and have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years. The obvious advantage of team sports compared to war is an appreciably lower body count when all is said and done…. oh, and no one’s village will get plundered, no one will see his crops burned, and nor will anyone’s wife get raped or enslaved by marauding soccer teams (we hope).

Almost all advanced civilizations have developed some form of competitive games, especially those geared to men. Whether the inventors of these contests were consciously aware of the cathartic value their creations is unknown, but the cathartic value of these activities is obvious.

And yet, this catharsis is not without the potential for trouble. The Booby will explain.

For those of you obsessed to the point of rage with your favourite team’s fortunes, ask yourselves: do you know it’s not a real war? No, really. Do you know it’s not a real war?

You may answer, “Of I course I know it’s not a real war, you asshole!” But your actions sometimes suggest otherwise. Ever see a riot break out after a sporting match? Sometimes it’s the fans of a winning team, like the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018; sometimes it’s the fans of a losing team, like the Vancouver Canucks in 1994 or 2011.

Canucks
The good progressive citizens of Vancouver following their team’s loss in the Stanley Cup final.

Photo:  Global News

Yes, the war catharsis can get out of control. But one doesn’t even have to riot to be overcome by the blurring of reality. Ask yourself, how far do you continue to take your obsessive catharsis once the game is over? Do you maniacally follow the hirings, firings, personnel moves, financial plans, or management strategies of your favourite team daily? Be honest.

OK, so you’re obsessed. Is that necessarily bad? Well, probably.

One day, in the not too distant future, you just may wake up and realize you’re in the midst of a messy divorce, and lo and behold, it’s just dawned on you now that your soon-to-be ex-wife has a huge advantage over you in the legal hearings, financial settlement, and custody negotiations.

Not fair, you say? No, it’s not fair, but for the last 10+ years instead of looking into men’s rights you’ve been raging at referees you’ll never meet each time one of them makes a call against your favourite team, something that will never, ever directly affect you in any way shape or form… unlike your impending divorce.

One day, in the slightly more distant future, you may realize that you’re 59 years old and are nowhere near being in a financial position to retire – ever. Too bad you’ve spent the last 30 years analyzing and criticizing how the general manager of your favourite football team has managed the league salary cap. That was a lot of time and brain power expended in the service of an organization that provides you with no tangible benefits or financial gain.

Yeah, that’s bad.

Fitness

This one’s obvious, fellas. Of course, fitness presumes actually playing the sport as opposed to watching it. Sports are a great way to keep fit. It needn’t even be a team sport or one involving physical contact.

Of course, the Booby’s too busy with whisky and cigars for such things, but you should do as the Booby says, not as he does.

But keep a few things in perspective.

First of all, sports can be expensive. If you’re failing to put money aside for your retirement or your financial independence then maybe an expensive game, like ice hockey, isn’t the best choice. Basketball and soccer, by contrast, are much cheaper, while walking, hiking, or jogging are even cheaper yet.

Secondly, a great many of us get old. As you advance in years it might be to your benefit to move away from those sports which are more likely to cause broken bones, necessitate dental surgery, or result in missed work due to hospitalizations… ice hockey again comes to mind.

Salming
Former NHL player, Borje Salming, following an on-ice altercation with a skate blade.

Photo:  Bleacherreport

Finally, unless you’re a professional athlete it’s just a game; it’s not real. It’s a means to achieve fitness that often provides some hands-on combative catharsis. At no point should your involvement in sports supersede your duties to family, financial independence, or friendships.

Every let a family member down so you could watch the game?

Yeah, that’s bad.

Entertainment

This one’s pretty obvious, too. Watching sports can be damned entertaining!

Forget Hollywood. Forget “reality” television. Only sports can offer glimpses of humanity at its most spectacular, both in terms of physical conditioning and mental discipline.

For those of you who scoff, just watch one of the most famous touchdowns in NFL history by former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson.

No Hollywood producer would dare script such an unlikely finale to a touchdown pass… for fear of the incredulity it should reasonably elicit. Only real life can deliver a spectacle like this, and no one can mock it as unbelievable because it just happened right in front of your eyes. Now that’s entertainment!

Indeed. But it’s still just entertainment.

Entertainment is something that can take ownership of your soul, just like drugs, booze, gambling, and sex. So, the question is, do you own your entertainment, or does your entertainment own you?

We get so very few days on this earth in which to appreciate the miracle of existence. Are you willing to allow one or more of these precious days to be ruined because a sports team you don’t even play for lost a game or traded a favourite player?

… Or because you ran out of beer? Or because you can’t get high? Or because you missed an episode of some mindless HBO series? Or because a woman rejected you at some meat market of a night club?

The Booby hopes you understand what he’s getting at.

There are plenty of good reasons why in life you should become enraged, sorrowful, or occasionally despondent. Nowhere in that list does the plight of any sports team or professional athlete appear… unless, of course, you happen to play for that sports team or unless you are that professional athlete.

So there you have it, fellas. Sports are great. But nothing is greater than your life journey, your self-education, or your financial independence. The beauty, drama, and spectacle of athletic excellence is, for most of us, a curiosity to illicit occasional awe, admiration, or fascination. But the most important game is making the most of the years between birth and death. Don’t let yourself get too distracted by merely spectating other people make the most of their life journeys.

So, as for obsessing with spectator sports, as opposed to living your life… well, the Booby can’t guarantee that if you follow your dreams and passions that you’ll necessarily be victorious, but if you choose being a spectator in life the Booby can guarantee you’ll be defeated.

Now live.

 

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