Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sports and violence

In honor of the Hong Kong Sevens taking place this week, I provide links to two very negative views on sport.  Most famous is George Orwell's essay "The Sporting Spirit" in which he notes,
Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.

Dominic Hobson on the BBC website talks about "The dark side of sport."

The reason the HK Sevens is different is that there are 24 countries represented, and in no game does the crowd cheer predominantly for one team (except, perhaps, for Hong Kong--everyone cheers for the home team).  Visitors from the UK or New Zealand who sit together in clusters of perhaps 12 people are surrounded by fans from other countries. This keeps every group from behaving in an excessively jingoistic manner. It also helps, I suspect, that the players get to know each other. They play in 9 tournaments this season, and there is a banquet after each one. Though winning is important for each team, it is more difficult to demonize and dehumanize the opponent, when you've met him before and socialized with him.

In any case, those who know the Sevens like it precisely because it is NOT like what Orwell and Hobson say. It is worth thinking more about why it is different.

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