11thMay, 2010

I'll be the first to admit I'm no great sports fan. I don't practice, and I don't watch. I like bowling, ping-pong, and chess. The only time I actually watch sports is every four years, for the World Cup, and I mean football, and I mean the one where you play a ball with your feet, not the one where you carry an egg with your arms.

As a teenager, sports were pure heresy to me. I had practiced many different sports as a kid, but never quite had the passion for any of them; what I played most was Tennis, and that wasn't because I liked the game, that was because I loved hitting things. Other than ball-hitting, I did some judo, some basketball, some athleticism, some football, and I even was a scout (I guess it doesn't quite count as a sport, but any extrascholar activity was the same thing to me as a kid, and that's the frame of reference we'll adopt). I didn't like sports and mostly practiced them because it seemed expected of all kids to do so, and so I did, and usually quit not very long afterwards, to do something else which I wasn't into either. Later on I was old enough to decide that I didn't want to practice any sport and that I'd much rather stay home do something else. As a teenager, then, sports were for jocks, even though where I come from we don't really have jocks, or a term for them, and so my schism wasn't so much based on reality as it was based on Nirvana. "What?" Yep, Nirvana, the band. As lame as it sounds, I had based much of my vision of school life on a Kurt Cobain biography, in which there were dumbass muscular jocks, sensitive intelligent artists, and nobody else of importance, seemingly. That said, my best friend in those years was an elite swimmer who adored Radiohead, so I wasn't like shunning sportsmen and sportswomen, I just didn't think of sports in any positive light.

Did I change my mind? You best hope I did.

Once I grew out of my silly boxes of dumbass muscular jocks and intelligent sensitive artists, I realised that some of the activities I loved were very much like sports. Videogames, for instance, were a form of sports. You may not sweat, but you still participate in a game with goals and rules made up by humans which serve nothing outside of the game itself. I always liked chess, and it's much the same thing. And I still love simple things like bowling. I could throw bowling balls at pins all day long and never get bored. And know this: one of my most stubborn dreams is to spend time in a batting cage. Believe it! We don't have batting cages here, so I can only dream about it, but batting balls all day long appeals to me. Why is that? I'll tell you.

You have to see sports and games as life. In life, you don't really know what the goal is, what the rules are, and what you're supposed to do; and when you think you know, you can never be quite sure. That's annoying. In sports, all of these things are crystal clear: you know what game you're playing, you know its rules, you know whose team you're on and who's on your team. There are no questions left unanswered, and that's infinitely more than life can offer. Say football, there are two teams, the purpose is to score against the other team. It's that simple, and you can spend your whole energy accomplishing that purpose, and not one bit of it trying to find out what the purpose is. If you're the philosophical kind, that is something you will know how to enjoy. In that sense, sports are like meditation; they allow you to focus more on less things, and give it your very best. If someone cheers you from the side of the football field, you know exactly why you're being cheered and what to do; if an angel peeks out his curly-haired head from the hyperdimensional metaphysical world and shouts "Go go go!", you won't know what to do.

And that, my friends, is awesome. Sports: a world where you know everything. It's like limiting our mysterious world to a simpler, more knowable one, and living in it. Clear lines, bright colours, everything is defined as it is and appearances don't lie. Isn't that sweet? Wouldn't you wish your enemies in life just dressed in another colour from you? And the best in this is that your enemies in sports aren't even real enemies (well, sometimes they are), they're only enemies within the game. Maybe that's what Christ was all about when He said not to hate each other: imagine life is just another game inside a bigger game the way sports is one inside life? You don't really want to kill your enemies if at the end of the game the reasons you had to kill them are gone.

Do I think this is everyone's approach to sports and the reason why they like sports? No. But you don't need to think of sports that way to enjoy what I just described. I don't know why chocolate tastes good beyond knowing that I like how it tastes, without a clue about how taste works.

Some say sports are a substitute for war. Well, that's not entirely off the mark. You need only look at European hooliganism and you will be convinced that indeed, for some, it is a replacement for war. It has clear enemies and allies, it represents nations, and if you're a hooligan, there is violence involved. But I don't mean to expend on this facet of sports.

So, in conclusion, sports are good for your mind too (and I don't mean that in a physical way, with chemicals and what not, just spiritually). That said, I still don't practice any physical sports. Practice what you preach? Well yeah, I practice Team Fortress 2.