Wednesday, April 27, 2011

For the record...

No one puts the role of sports in society in place more lucidly than Noam Chomsky - see here and here, for instance. A diversion from more important matters, a way of channeling expertise and attention from questions that are actually important to those that are trivial, a method of social control, and a simulated form of tribal warfare - these are all thoughts that have resonated with me since I was a kid, forced to watch sports (my Dad was a fan) and, worse, participate in them (I can't count the number of times I was picked last, or second-to-last, in high school, for pretty much any team sport you can name). I suppose I AM patriotic about bands, and love rooting for Vancouver "teams" in the form of music (Go Bison!) - tho' it's not that the victory of any home team depends on the loss of the visitors (I mean, the Ford Pier Vengeance Trio gave an awesome, intense set opening for Watt last night, but the situation was win-win all around); but I care so little about which team wins which cup, hockeywise, that, in high school, to prove a point, I once bet AGAINST the Canucks with a schoolmate when they were playing for the Stanley Cup against the NY Islanders. Won $5, too.

Still, I actually had an investment in the outcome last night, myself, since the mood at the gig would have sucked if the Canucks lost. Standing at the Media Club, waiting for the game to be over so the show could go on, with Bev and Femke and Dave R. Bastard of The Sorrow and the Pity watching the TV screens over the bar with me, I actually endeavoured to overcome the nauseatingly dizzying, follow-the-puck camerawork to enter the game (having to ask Bev which team was ours, first. Prior to her her arrival, I'd been contemplating whether it was safe to just ignore the screens and read the book I'd brought). Still, once I knew who to root FOR, it wasn't that hard to take an interest, and when the victory goal was shot in, I confess I actually smiled and gave a (VERY little) involuntary whoop along with everyone else.

I have no idea what the Canucks victory means (I think they still have to play more games before they really "win"), and I'm mostly glad that I can go back to ignoring them, now... but while we're on the subject: yay, team!


Tyler said...

You might also enjoy David P. Barash's excellent article The Roar of the Crowd. His approach, focused more on humans' affinity for forming groups, is different from Chomsky's but no less interesting or vital. It begins scornfully:

"Marx was wrong: The opiate of the masses isn't religion, but spectator sports. What else explains the astounding fact that millions of seemingly intelligent human beings feel that the athletic exertions of total strangers are somehow consequential for themselves? The real question we should be asking during the madness surrounding this month's collegiate basketball championship season is not who will win, but why anyone cares.

Not that I would try to stop anyone from root, root, rooting to his or her heart's content. It's just that such things are normally done by pigs, in the mud, or by seedlings, lacking a firm grip on reality — fine for them, but I am not at all sure this is something that human beings should do. In desperation, if threatened with starvation, I suppose that I would root — for dinner. But for the home team? Never."

Allan MacInnis said...

Thanks, interesting ideas therein. The thing that troubles me is that to some extent my enthusiasm for music and film counts as an oversized fake egg, as well. The Unabomber Manifesto's stuff about "surrogate activities" sometimes comes to mind in this regard, as well: