I’m just going to come right out and say it. I hate all sports. Even the ones I sometimes like. Now this is, of course, downright unAustralian of me so I’m going to try to defend my position.
First of all, you need to know that I am not opposed to physical activity. I’m a relatively fit and healthy individual. My cholesterol is freakishly low, as is my blood pressure. I go for walks pretty regularly and take the stairs instead of the lift most of the time. So this isn’t about me feeling all threatened by people with hard bodies (I tend to think women look better with soft bodies anyway).
What I hate most of all is the brittle rhetoric that surrounds almost all sporting endeavour. The bullshit about “teamwork” and “sportsmanship” and “giving it your best”. Everybody knows that sport is all about winning. Even when they say, “it’s not about winning” it’s about winning. The forum I in which I resent this rhetoric the most is children’s sports.
Imagine, if you will, an eight-year-old who reads poorly. Nothing stupid about her: just a combination of sluggish genetics and indifferent parents and she’s behind the rest of the class. Now, let’s give her a book and make her read in front of the whole school community. “Come on,” they’ll say, “give it a go. It’s not about being the best.” Her vision tunnels, her ears start to ring, she struggles through aware everyone is looking at her. How do you think she’d feel? I tend to think her self-esteem would be crushed and she’d probably develop hard feelings towards reading for life.
So why the hell do we make children who aren’t naturally good at sport race their classmates in front of huge audiences? “It’s not whether you win or lose,” they say. But it is. Because the kid who comes last, she doesn’t get a trophy on parade, she sits in the great silent stillness of the non-winner. Because she lost and everyone saw it. And if she’s the best reader in her class, there’s no trophy.
Luckily, though, there’s the wonderful consolation of a lifetime of books.