Yesterday I felt oppressed by the dominance of sports culture in Australia. It was a meeting and we were making introductions and we had to say something interesting about ourselves. And most people’s ‘interesting thing’ was their sporting loyalty, some comment staking their loyalty and denigrating a different sports code or a rival team. What I hated the most was the raucous laughter which accompanied it. To me, it felt so unfunny and childish.
Usually I wouldn’t care much, but the mood I was in yesterday, it felt oppressive. It was made worse when someone explained to the visiting Englishman, ‘This is just Aussie humour’. And that made me think how sporting obsession is normalised and if you don’t fit it, you’re abnormal. Common ground is established by exploring one’s football loyalties. If you don’t care about the football… what sort of person are you?
Football team loyalty seems misguided to me. The players themselves swap teams. (Do they care who they’re playing for?)
Do I want everyone to start appreciating the arts more? What if you established initial common ground by giving your opinion on James Joyce or how moved you are or not by Beethoven?
Yes and no. As much as I feel oppressed by a raucous, crass, crude, unthinking, primitive culture of sport which elevates men (and only a few women) as national heroes for their ability to kick balls or swim fast, I wouldn’t actually like to be a part of the mainstream. I guess I relish my role as outsider and my shameful feelings of cultural superiority.
How about you?
Albert Camus was a soccer goalkeeper!
“Camus played as goalkeeper for Racing Universitaire Algerois (RUA won both the North African Champions Cup and the North African Cup twice each in the 1930s) junior team from 1928–30.When Camus was asked in the 1950s by an alumni sports magazine for a few words regarding his time with the RUA, his response included the following:
After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA. 
He was the complete package.
chris walker said:
I like sport, probably because I grew up playing a lot of it. I think sport in itself is fine; the problem, as you suggest, is ‘sports culture’, particularly when it is dominated by money and insipid professionalism.
Perhaps the question to ask is: how do we create a new, dare I say civilised, sports culture? I haven’t got any answers, save the ridiculously general, i.e. create a new civilisation (or reform the characters of those in our civilisation)!
One thing I think is the good measure of a person is how they handle losing, whether that be at sport or at other games. Perhaps ‘how-one-loses’ – in any area of life – is one good measure of character?
english st said:
Sportspeople and adventurers used to play such an important part in the life of the community.
I’ve often wondered who the Bradman, Phar Lap or De Maggio of our generation will be. These were the people (or horses) who lifted a country’s spirits in a time of decline and turmoil.
I realise now, it will never happen in sport, because the important thing is which beer or betting agency is the brand of this segment.
As far as adverturers go, well we can only go to the moon for the first time once or climb Everest for the first time once, there will never be another Charles Kingsford-Smith or Amelia Earhart, the Southern Cross is what yobbos get tattooed on their backs, not a symbol of Australian hope. How can we look up to Ricky Ponting or Darren Lockyer like our ancestors may have looked up to Don Bradman or Bill Woodfull?
Despite us being in the ‘Image of God’, humanity makes me cringe.
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Of course I didn’t have you guys in mind! Or Albert Camus.
I used to play sport too. I even have a Most Improved tropy for the Collie Saints U/16 football team. And I used to collect football cards. I am the sportsperson of sportsperson.
Or maybe not.
Hobby in life is the joy said:
Very enjoyable exercise.
After school I used to play ball and compete with other schools
chris walker said:
Hi Brad aka English St (and Nathan)
Apropos your comments about adventurers (explorers seem to fall within the category), I’ve wondered that, as the amount of undiscovered physical space decreases, whether the adventurers / explorers of our time are those who pioneer ‘cultural space’ – which term I’ll conveniently leave undefined :-). What I’ve got in mind is people who give us new ways of seeing and experiencing ourselves, others and the world(s) we inhabit.
Perhaps technical / technological innovators are also the ‘adventurers’ / explorers of our time, i.e. the boffins who’ve created so many of the ways we inhabit our western lives. The two guys who founded Google spring to mind as a ready example.
To return to geographical adventures, I’ve recently been cultivating a vegie garden: yesterday I transplanted some broccoli seedlings into my freshly manured patch. Vegie-gardening makes me feel like an adventurer of the territorial kind. I’m discovering lots.
english st said:
Hi Chris, folks.
I like your comments on digital explorers/adventures/pioneers. I’ve never really appreciated technology as much as I probably should have. I love my computer when it works, and I think by PS3 is pretty cool, but heh.
I wonder if my apathy has come with familiarity. I use these things everyday, so they are just everyday. Has the digital age of over-information desensitised us to true awe and wonder?
Perhaps not. Still on adventurers and explorers, I’ve been playing with a 1599 Geneva Bible all week. That is inspirational, a 410 year old book, hand set, wood-engraved images, a real art work, and practical too. I guess it still isn’t all that everyday! I’ve posted some pictures http://wp.me/pvi5Z-3k.
Hope you’ve got something though provoking ready for us tomorrow Nathan!
Nathan Hobby said:
Hey Chris – interesting idea. I guess forty years ago we assumed the next frontier would be space. That doesn’t seem so likely now, at least not in the manner of Vasco Da Gama or Marco Polo.
Good luck with your broccoli.
Interesting post, Nathan. I have only two quick comments which may either be along the same lines or completely tangential:
1) We do have a very dominant sports culture in Australia, because it is the new religion. We’re taught it when we’re little, and it stays with us all the way through our lives. But you’re right to question whether it should be what defines us. What would be fascinating is to do a study on why, in the 60s, sports was not one of the cultural heritages to be given the flick by the younger generation. Every generation since the 60s has turned its back on its parents’ taste in clothes, their religion, their politics, their morals. But not their love of sports. If somebody could tell me why classical music is thrown out for being old and irrelevant, but football – far older with very few changes to it over the years – remains popular, I would be very interested to read it.
2) More disturbing, I think, for men, though, is that sports becomes the new definition of masculinity – and, dare I say it, heterosexuality. At least as far as I can work out from movies and the general cultural vibe, real men kick balls, hurt people and listen to AC/DC. So guys who write, listen to classical music, like gardening, etc. – things that are “gentler” – shall we say, are often made to feel as if they’re not as masculine, a bit wimpy – and often gay. How did aggression and physical prowess become the definition of masculinity?