I’m a sports fan. I’m particularly interested in football, Formula 1 and tennis, but I try to keep an eye on a variety of other sports as well. Even so, recently I’ve been thinking just how strange it is. Before I go any further, I just want to make it clear that this post is made up of my own thoughts and opinions, not anything I’ve ever heard in church or even in the Bible.
I’m a pretty dedicated Liverpool FC fan, but really I don’t know why. Think about it, what good reason could there possibly be to care whether or not a group of men (none of whom you’ve ever met) can kick a ball into a net more times than another group of men? Sure, it’s skilful, but it’s not something which is ever going to have a practical application other than entertainment (though maybe that’s the only application it needs). I like to think that I’m not so bad anymore, but there was a point where I would be so emotionally invested in supporting Liverpool that a good day could be soured by a bad result from the team at the end of it, or a bad day could be brightened by a good result. Surely that’s not healthy!
And right now, it’s the football transfer season. For those of you who don’t follow European football, this is the time of the year where teams don’t actually play much football, but they all buy and sell players to try and improve their team for next season. In this time, Twitter goes into overdrive with transfer rumours, most of which never materialise, yet people get incredibly excited when they see the name of someone who they’ve never heard of before, yet apparently played well in Ukraine last season, linked with their club, and then get annoyed when the rumour turns out to be false! I’m not going to lie, I get excited about these things, but part of me always wonders why…
International sport is actually really interesting from a social point of view. This weekend sees Andy Murray, the British hero, in the final of Wimbledon against the Serbian Novak Djokovic. The weight of expectation on Andy Murray is huge, even though he’s technically the underdog, to win his home tournament. One man carries the hopes of a nation. This is astounding! In a world where international boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred by the internet, the majority of sports fans in any country will still want their country to be superior to every other country.
I’d love to be qualified enough to be able to say why this is, but instead, all I can offer are my opinions. I’ve heard sport support being referred to as a tribal mentality, and I can see some merits in this. For me, it sometimes seems that sport has largely replaced fighting. This probably sounds a little strange, but bear with me. Sport allows groups from one country to travel to another country and assert their dominance. It is an environment in which young men (and women) can train to the point of physical perfection and go against one another to see who has the greatest physical and mental ability. Sportspeople provide national figureheads that we can rally around and support, emotionally investing ourselves in their successes and failures in order to feel like we’ve achieved something too. All those qualities have belonged to armies and groups of warriors in the past, for as long as humans have been fighting.
But, when all is said and done, nothing can take away the simple fact that people enjoy watching sports. How many times in the last fortnight have people cheered stunning shots at Wimbledon? How many times do football fans watch ‘wonder goals’ with looks of admiration? How many times have people grinned when their national rugby team gets a victory over their local rivals? How many people looked on in amazement as the European Ryder Cup team mounted that incredible come back against the Americans? How many Australians look forward to trying to win the Ashes back from the English? A large part of the world’s population loves playing and watching sport. It’s fun! Part of me wonders constantly about the point of sport and why we enjoy it, but a much larger part is happy to sit there and have fun, because sport is fun, and no amount of analysis can take away that simple match.
P.S. COME ON ANDY!