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Monday, January 23, 2012

Sports and Hector's Ideal

Many parents struggle with sports, especially contact sports and their children's participation in them.  In that vein, I wanted to share this.  It's fairly lengthy, and 96.2% of you will find it overkill, but I highly recommend taking a look.

Rarely have I heard the case for sports made so well.  His premise, at least one of them,  is pretty interesting:
A major objective of [Plato's] great work, The Republic, is to show how for a civilization truly to thrive, it must find a way to make the drive for glory subordinate to reason.
He goes on basically to argue that it's healthy to engage the glory-seeking/ultra-competitive among us with sports, in lieu of war, etc.  Hector in The Iliad is presented as the ideal, as someone that can embody both the shockingly violent warrior, and the lovingly gentle husband and father.

This guy also presents a really novel critique that sports creates an absolute, well-known hierarchy based on ability.  This rings true with me - I knew precisely my rank on every team I've ever played on (it wasn't high).  Check this out:
A world that is so intensely hierarchical is a clear and energizing world, where meaning is available all the time. Who are you? I'm the best center in the league, or the second-best, or whatever. And I'm working to rise, or to stay on top, or whatever. One of the joys of sports lies in knowing who you are and where you are and what you have to do to ascend. Such knowledge is not available to most people in the world, and often they envy it, or they tap into it vicariously by becoming fans.
Things get sticky when you think of this ranking being the antithesis of Christianity.  We're to see all people as equals, or as Paul says in Philippians, as better than ourselves.  But ranking and outdoing bleeds into everyday life, to the detriment of our faith and of others themselves.

Oh, fair warning, the author makes a stupid (and inexplicable) left turn into homosexuality and how all male athletes are (of course!) secretly drawn to it.  Riiight.  I believe they call that "projection," big guy.

Exit quotation, emphasis mine:
The more ambitious you are, the more competitive you are, the less often you will experience serenity, a state in which, as Wordsworth says, "with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things." The man who lives in that spirit, Schopenhauer tells us, is the one who, when he passes another on the street, says to himself, "That too is me." Those who whisper, however subliminally, "That is another" live in the purgatory of individual pride and desire.

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