Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

In my last blog entry I explained how I get a good chuckle from streakers. And, unknown to me, as I wrote that post, such a ballsy act was swinging into action—as ballsy acts do—not far from where currently I sit. So, here is a short follow-on post—not to discuss more nudity, mind you, but, rather, stadiums.

B.C. Place Stadium

In Vancouver, The B.C. Lions play that false variant of football where an oblong “ball” is struck by an actual foot hardly at all and with about as much grace as a steroid needle plunging into buttock muscle. “The beautiful game” it ain’t, but, nevermind: as far as sports go, this one makes about as much sense as any of the others. Now, these faux wildcats normally play in a soulless concrete cavern of a stadium, on fake grass, illuminated by artificial light, beneath a glorified umbrella of a roof. An apparatus of sorts, a noise-o-meter, is employed to elicit the effects of enthusiasm (i.e. cheering noises) with none of the normal causes for such (i.e. something exciting occurring). Imagine the choreographed mass applause for Our Beloved Comrade Leader in some far off dictatorland—minus the actual Beloved Comrade Leader. Like that.

When Rudolf Rocker wrote of “the tuning of all human feeling to one note, the rejection of the rich diversity of life, the mechanical fitting of all effort to a designated pattern”, he might have been discussing a B.C. Lions game. Is it any wonder that brawls in the stands have been common? I attended a game years ago and left half way through. I heard on the radio later that “we” had won.

But the other night, from one account anyway, it appears the sorry status quo was turned on its head. The team was the same; the rules of the game hadn’t changed. But a mood of great festivity had overwhelmed the fans. Cheering happened spontaneously and naturally. Laughter rained down from the stands for the nude fellow rushing across the field. Some sang for no particular reason other than good mood, and still others stomped their feet. Hundreds built a “beer snake” from their empty plastic cups and wriggled it around the stadium. Inevitably the noise-o-meter made its ugly appearance, and fans thrashed it with their silence. What brought on this infection of good cheer, this organic sprouting of the best of human feelings? Quite simply: the venue. Gone was the cavern, changed to an outdoor arena, with real grass, a blue and white sky, wind and sun.

With a little reflection, I might wonder whether these football games say something about human nature. How do the physical surroundings affect the mood of individuals and the behaviour of crowds? Are people, when allowed to behave naturally, innately good? But maybe that is meat for another post.

By the way, the outcome of the game this particular day? The home team lost. I wonder if anyone minded?

The World Cup of Football. The biggest sporting event on earth. The beautiful game. Anarchy by the French squad. Yes, all of this. But not anarchy in the mere silly sense of chaos. Something else. The Sun newspaper of England called it “French Revolution II”, a wild exaggeration to be sure, but perhaps closer to the truth than even the author of that article understands.

Reports had already surfaced that coach, Raymond Domenech, and others on his staff, were not getting along with some of the national players when striker, Nicolas Anelka, verbally lashed out at Domenech during half-time of the squad’s second match. The French Football Federation (FFF) subsequently scurried to the defence of their head man sending Anelka packing back to France after he refused to apologize. The footballers, in turn, rallied behind their team mate by boycotting a training session and calling a traitor the one among them who had blabbed details to the public. At this point, the dominoes fell only in one direction with increasing clatter.

The team was chastised in public discourse. Television pundits denounced the players’ behaviour as disgraceful, a “suitcase of shame” as my tele-snubby labelled it. Corporate sponsors dropped their support. The French Minister of Sport was dispatched to address the players, and, predictably, that sickly, cloying sentiment, Honour of Country, was spooned out as caramel over a burnt crêpe. One final match against the host country, one more horrible performance by Les Bleus, tournament over, regrets and apologies voiced by the players. Never mind, let this be a lesson to footballers to shut up and “do their talking on the pitch” in future.

Professional athletes the world over are bought and sold as chattel. Of course they often receive ludicrous wages, a fine sum of hush money to be sure. But is it really the duty of players to acquiesce to that authority figure known as the head coach? Or even more radically: is it writ in stone that the team even needs this field marshal with his cadre of officers? Obviously the entire game –and virtually all sport –is organized this way. But does it need be? Is it legitimate? Suppose the players decide that their coach is a clown (and this one might be, for he refused to shake hands with the South African coach after his team’s loss)? Could they organize their own affairs? Do they need someone to tell them how to train? Clearly they have trained a good deal for much of their lives. They probably have it figured out already.

Self-organizing teams. No bossy coaches. No hierarchy. A flat peer structure. Just imagine it. Not in my lifetime, but when it happens, I bet it’ll be the French who will kick it off.