Sunday, February 3, 2008


There will be no scores reported at this blog today, and no team colors displayed.

I love the Olympics, I love people who engage in physical activity for work or play, and, within limits, I can see the value of team sports. But what appears on television is entertainment, not a reflection of character or even regional pride. Organized sports in this country is part of the hired entertainment complex. It has no meaning beyond that, and it has no place being part of news broadcasts. It is no more news than what's on sale at Wal-Mart or what color Britney wore today.

Many people close to me have argued that playing sports offers a healthy outlet for natural human aggression. Well, first of all, I don't feel that kind of aggression or the need to slam my body against that of another, and I think I'm a natural human. Second, I see no evidence that men who play sports for a living are less aggressive or violent than other men, and plenty of evidence indicating they are more so.

As I see it, organized sports serves eight main functions:

(1) It offers the daydream of "getting rich" to entire classes of folks who would never have a hope otherwise of lifting themselves from poverty and foreshortened hard-working lives. It's as much a fantasy as the notion of becoming a "star" is. Feeding that myth doesn't just keep American Idol and ESPN on the air, it also keeps a huge number of people from realizing how rigidly class stratified our culture is and maybe doing something about it.

(2) It offers a way for men, mostly white men, to funnel a great deal of money directly into the educations and pockets of other men, almost entirely bypassing women (Title IX notwithstanding).

(3) It gives white bigots everywhere an excuse to claim they are not racist. "I love Michael Jordan, man." Uh-huh. Dating your daughter? Moving his less affluent cousins onto your block? Hanging with his buddies on the street corner? Running as your President?

(4) It gives men who are terrified of their own feelings and terrified of the company of other men an excuse to hang out, pretend they are close, and have something to talk about with no requirement that they engage their intellect or their emotions.

(5) It has given these same men an excuse to not spend time with their families on weekend or holidays.

(6) It gives men a pretext for feasting their gaze on the bodies of other men. Exaggerated shoulders via padding, cup-enhanced codpieces and pants that cling lovingly tight to buttocks, all without a clearly visible face or the need for conversation: A pederast's dream but also a safe haven for the ordinary longing men and boys have (but are denied) for basic human touch with their own kind.

(7) It affords a pretend way for men to be smart: Memorizing statistics as a substitute for thinking. Once a game is over, the stats involved in its playing are of no consequence whatsoever. Time marches on. But men who cannot remember the birthdays of their own children or parents can tell you inning by inning numbers of a game thirty years ago, and get jobs based on that ability. It also offers dumbed-down "truth is simple" metaphors as a replacement for the real complexity of social organization and struggle. If you've heard one athlete post-game try to explain why they won or lost, you've heard them all. It's nonsense to ask them the question. It's delusional.

(8) Most of all, it maintains the cult-like worship of masculinity as what separates men from all Others. Jock is a key synonym for masculine. A few women dare to interlope, and get called dykes or nappy-headed hos as a result.

I lived a dozen years without Super Bowls occurring, and let me assure you, people still had good, productive lives before 1967. I can remember when the evening news had actual speeches from politicians in them, and interviews with concerned citizens that lasted longer than 1.7 seconds. If you couldn't attend a game, you missed it, buddy. You could read the scores next day in the paper but there were more important things to think about. Like disaster preparedness, climate change, genocide around the globe, rape, inequality, child abuse -- when did we vote on removing those from the news in favor of watching grown men toss balls around?

As long as we're taking on the massive imbalance in this country, I'd like to see sports returned to playing fields where it is funded locally, with team slots and scholarships open to all regardless of ability. It should be relegated to "fluff for the fluffy-brained" TV as surely as specials about Natalee Holloway and Anna Nicole Smith (who are, like the Elvis T-shirt says, "Dead. Really dead.")

And if you're having trouble seeing this objectively, here's a few questions for ya:

What would you do with your sons if you didn't have school sports to babysit them?

How would your relationship with your spouse fare if watching sports on TV was reduced to one game a week?

What if sewing became a competitive event, with every stitching lingered over in close-ups? (Way more interesting than golf or most of what goes on in a baseball game.) What if folks memorized the cost of Butterick vs. McCall's patterns back into the early part of last century and could reel off the minute changes in styles at hard-drinking "sewing" bars? What if using steroids to increase hemming and basting speed was thought to merit Congressional investigation? At least with a sewing competition, you'd have usable garments at the end instead of Gatorade stains and future orthopedic bills.

I'm now going to dare turn on my TV and see if the crapfest is over yet.


letsdance said...

It's not over yet, Maggie. Your eight points about the uselessness of sports is right on. It's all meaningless crap that gives men an escape from participating in their family's life.

little gator said...

A few days ago Mr. Gator was tormenting the teenage boys working at the supermarket by pretending he didn't even know about the game. Which we can't avoid, living in Patriotville.

They finally figure dout he was pretending, and were then even more baffled by his not caring about it, going so far as to talk about how he'd rent a movie that night.

Meanwhile I am grumped at my insurance agent. I emailed her and got an autonotice saying approximately "I'm out of the office today but will respond tomorrow. GO PATS!"

Kitty Glendower said...

I was thinking about the same thing today and wrote a few lines about it. Especially the part that men can openly admire other men without fear of catching homoitis. And with the same deal, they get to heighten their masculinity creds. A two for one.

kat said...

what if sewing became a competitive event? That would be awesome! Where can I sign up.

ooh, better yet, my new life goal shall be to open the ard-drinking, bad-ass sewer's bar.

Today was my grand-dad's 95th b-day party. It was much fun, and there was no football. We ate delicious beef stew with salad and fruit and home-baked buttery rolls, finished with dulce de leche cake. then we played with the great-grandkids, who are adorable. Every grown-up got to be the "horsey."

Boyfriend was worried that the men would be wanting to watch football, but I assured him (correctly) that the family's not into that. They are British, after all, and despite being here for quite a while, still don't get into American sport.

Maggie Jochild said...

What a nice set of responses -- and here I was worried I was a single viewpoint!

Jan, thanks for the heads-up. I went back to writing more GB. Little Gator, I surely hope your Pat locality didn't experience any after-game violence. Kat, I love how you wrote "grand-dad" with the hyphen. And now I'm wondering what the beverage "ard" tastes like.

And folks, Kitty Glendower is one of the bloggers at AROOO (which is not an Aussie cry of exuberance but rather an acronym for A Room Of One's Own). You can read her post on this topic at Go Team Go

little gator said...

I did win a prize sewing competition once.It was jointly sponsored by the Grange and Polyfill brand toy stuffing.

My red pig won a third place ribbon at the local level.

So come on ever, the ards are on me!

kat said...

That's 'ard, o'course. The sewers will drink right 'ard, innit?

The only drink will be Strongbow cider, and anyone what tries to order a 'alf-pint will be run out the place.

kat said...

I'll take you up on it, Gator!
I've not won any prizes, but my sewing has actually earned me money, so that's pretty cool.

liza said...

Well haven't we always said that the gay olympics should have decorating competitions? Give me a Project Runway Marathon over Superbowl Sunday any time.

That said, I did actually watch part of the superbowl at my kids grandparents' house. They got me to sit down and watch by telling me that the commercials were supposed to be extra lavish, which I was actually curious about. However, I only watched the local ads, which sucked big time, then the actual game came on and I was bored to tears and went and did something else.

I grew up in a house that had no sports watching on TV, although my older brothers glued themselves to the radio to listen to baseball games.

Different times.