Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Sports?

 Why Sports?

Watching the baseball league championship games, I am reminded of some of the functions sports play in our society.  I am wearing my lucky Royals cap.  It became my lucky hat this year when the team improved enough to get into the playoffs.  Last year and in the years before that it was apparently not lucky enough.

In social situations people have commented on my cap.  Last year few, if any, people talked to me about it.  Having a team in the playoffs, allows strangers to talk to me about the team.   We share a common interest.  In a small way it is like a family with an infant eating in a restaurant, the presence of the baby encourages others to stop by their table ask questions and make supportive remarks. 

I know from my work as a psychologist that people who feel isolated can chat with others about sports and get a degree of acceptance ordinarily not easily found. 

Having a winning team elates the spirits of those who live in the area the team is associated with.  Many people have played sports in the past or they still play.  We identify with sports figures who strive without knowing whether or not they will succeed. 
We admire people who can accomplish difficult tasks, especially if they do things with skill and √©lan. 

Sports allow the expression of aggression, within relatively safe settings.  Sports figures are sometimes mythologized as heroes and treated in ways that used to be reserved for warriors.  We assume they have characteristics we value in other spheres of life.  Expectations can be unrealistic. Being an athlete does not excuse bad behavior and we do the athlete no good by making excuses for him or her.

Sports allow socially approved expression of emotion. Men, by tradition, have limited acceptable opportunities to let their feeling out. An increasing number of women are involved in amateur and professional sports.   I think this is expanding what is considered socially appropriate for women.  

I’m not at all sure playing sports develops character.  I believe it is one setting where character may, or may not develop while dealing with success and failure.  I think there are many others.  I definitely believe that character is revealed by sports.

In our society Sports provide an opportunity for dissimilar people to communicate.  For example in the movie City Slickers one of the characters commented that during extended conflict with his father about the war in Viet Nam sports were the only thing they could discuss without arguing.

Talking about sports is infinitely better than not talking at all.


  1. When I played sports it was an approved way to work off being pissed at the world. A hard tackle (soccer, not football) or kicking the heck out of the ball relieved tensions that otherwise could have caused problems. Golfers can do the same thing as they mentally paint the bosses’ picture on their ball and whack it with the driver.

    I should note that whenever I did that, the drive would slice because I overswung.

    ~ Jim

  2. I'm unsure that talking sports is better than not. Although I'm fairly athletic, I am not much of a competitor. The emphasis on winning and losing in team sports develops a black and white mindset that I don't really like. Labeling people as winners or losers leaves a lot to be desired. Our society's and our children's upbringing's relies so much on the concept of winning that it turns me off. There are other values that I consider more important.

  3. I'm not much of a football fan, but is often the only topic of conversation in the fall. Where I live is not a defined area for one team--we get fans for Eagles, Steelers, Ravens and Washington team with the controversial R name. I do try to avoid the conversations, but sometimes people include me. Best response I've found is a neutral, "How 'bout them Saints?"

  4. I've never been interested in sports except our high school basketball team - which was the only sport in our school all those many years ago.

    Recently, however, I've been reading more and more about the negative aspects of football in creating some very bad characters both in college and in the professional leagues. It seems the football players are so revered that they think they're demigods who can get away with anything and in too many cases they do. Football is a big money maker for colleges and the NFL so the powers to be would rather overlook the football players transgressions until they're forced to do something about it like when You Tube videos of those behaviors go viral forcing them into it.

  5. Sports can be a great unifier - I can talk about the Capitals or the Bruins with people of all ages and walks of life.
    But there is that dark side too, as Gloria mentioned. Sports has too great a hold over our education system and some athletes do get a sense of entitlement. Also, there was an article in the NYTimes that reported that sports - especially college sports- cost so much that they really don't make that much for their schools. Students who are not playing sports subsidize those that do.

  6. On the lighter side, sports are a good excuse to have a party. I like having friends over to watch football on TV. We catch-up on each other's news while cheering our team on to victory or commiserating in their defeat (usually the case with Washington). Plus, you get to see some excellent athletes like Hines Ward perform on Dancing with the Stars:)

  7. This has helped me in my career. When I was a young female professional in a mostly male environment, I wasn't so much discriminated against as ignored. I wasn't one of the guys. Until they did NCAA brackets, and found out I was a huge basketball fan. I didn't win, but when my Wake Forest U team did well, they celebrated with me. Less ignored after that.