Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Supporting National Sports is Rubbish

I'll never understand why people support sports at a national level, like the Olympics or the World Cup. What really confounds me is how people can suddenly feel some sense of elation when their national team wins a medal or trophy, or experience disappointment when their squad are utterly thrashed or humiliated. I mean, I can understand if you feel happy if you've participated and won something, but then you've not. Technically it's your team, but then again it's a bit of a stretch to go out and say that you have anything remotely to do with their victory or defeat. You could legitimately be entitled to share in their joy (or anguish) if you knew someone in the team personally, in the sense of "Oh I'm happy for your victory, my friend/cousin/neighbor/sister's friend's uncle's butcher's son ". But it's clearly not justified to look at someone you only know through posters or the TV screen and say, "Oh I'm happy for your victory, Mr sportsman that I do not know personally".

I don't mean that it's stupid to support all sports. I can understand how it's actually logical to support some (non-national) sporting franchise, and celebrate when they win; you're happy because it is a validation of your choice to support that particular franchise over alternative franchises. When your team wins, it says that you have the analytical skills or uncanny intuition or unbroken heritage to select the winning team. It gives you bragging rights over the neighbor-twit in the next cubicle who supports a second-rate team. I can understand how all this works, but for national sports? You don't use your analytical skills or intuition or magic dust to choose the team you support, in fact you don't even have a choice to justify- you're stuck supporting the team of the country you live in (or sometimes, the quasi-independent geopolitical entity you live in). And there are absolutely no personal bragging rights when the national team wins, though it might probably be plastered over the newspapers in an attempt to piss off the neighboring belligerent states.

I can understand how one may be happy if the college or school team wins, because in that case it does say something about yourself, like "Hey I entered into a place with a tradition of winning some otherwise inconsequential but relatively shiny piece of silverware that's gold plated". It's somewhat, not entirely but somewhat, justified by the fact that you had some manner of choice or at least alternative that happens to endear yourself to this particular college or school over competing alternatives. This argument is clearly non-functional for sports at the national level, where the only reason you're supporting the team is because a stork happened to deliver you to the same geopolitical entity as the players in the national squad (but sometimes and increasingly often, not always true). And clearly, "vagaries of fate" is no grounds for justifying a sense of common achievement!

In the end, the only reason for feeling any euphoria or sadness is nationalist patriotism, which is itself something not entirely sensible. The problem with placing a flag onto a team is that it somehow compels you to support that team (assuming it is your nation's flag, and that you recognize it). It also becomes somewhat wrong to support other national teams; the logic must be that anyone supporting a foreign team is a fanatic agent of a foreign power whose only burning desire is the utter and absolute destruction of our nation's traditions and way of life.

I think what's proper is to acknowledge that national teams have utterly nothing to do with oneself. It is quite absurd to believe that singing the anthem or flying the flag create an mystical and unbreakable bond between the athlete and the sports viewer! If they win, well good for them, but it's not really my business to celebrate or care for their behalf. It simply does not make sense to do such a silly thing!


Anonymous said...

Just enjoy the game or ignore it. Either way, quit whining.

The Negative Man said...

Sorry, I forgot to attach the tag "humor". Well, clearly it or the sense of it is missing! Half of it is my fault, I suppose, for being unable to convey tonal information.

Have a jolly day then.

Anonymous said...

Point taken. My comment was more joking then critical as well. :-) Perhaps a rousing call to action to abolish national teams at the end or a tag of 'a modest proposal' would have helped cement the satirical nature. Keep on blogging polymath.

The Negative Man said...

That's a good suggestion for improvement.

Though, to be honest, I thought about for half a day and the real problem (imo) with national sports is that they seem massively over-hyped. You get these hordes of national supporters, most of which can barely say anything about the national team or sometimes even about the sport itself! After the event, these 'supporters' go into hibernation and are never seen again.

I suppose to a fan of the sport they must feel somewhat soiled?