sports make sense

Even the quandary about the nature of God is explained. On any given Sunday there will be players on both sides of the field praying to God for victory. Of course, only one team can win. How does this solve the problems associated with God’s reasons for doing things? Simple: God helped the winners win and tested the faith of the losers…”

 

by matt waterman

 

Let’s face it; sports and existential angst just don’t mix. Some great tastes taste great together but this is definitely not one of those cases. Football players, upon winning the Super Bowl don’t give a shout-out to Nietzsche and his crazy Super-Man. Boxers, in their victory speeches, don’t thank the thoughtful nihilism of Sartre, they thank their trainers and their mom. However, speaking strictly for myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Many decry that sports are alternately too brutal, too inane, or too commercial. Of course, a case can be made for any one of these assertions. But one thing that is absolutely true about sports is that they make sense. There’s a goal, a reason for all the stupidity. Whether it be getting a ball through a hoop more times than the other guys or getting more of your guys around the bases, at least there are definite, definable rules governing all of it. And, though admittedly arbitrary and nonsensical, that’s more than the real world has to offer.

“Why am I here?” It’s a question that has plagued scholars and philosophers since the beginning of recorded history. However, pose that question on a football field? “I’m going to take this ball and, alternately, I’m going to throw it and/or run with it in order to get it past that line at the other end of the field.” And there you have it. Existence explained!
The best example of this may be weight lifting, if one is to consider that a sport. It could be Kafka himself in the throes of defending himself against a crime he can know nothing about. But if he’s got that two hundred and twenty-five pounds on his chest, the only thing he’s thinking about is getting that freaking weight off himself. To hell with existential angst.

It’s similar from the fan’s perspective. Who hasn’t had problems that simply require too much thought and too much ambiguity? The classic: Your girlfriend/boyfriend isn’t talking to you but he or she will not explain what the problem is. That could take days to solve. Heck, for some couples it could take months. But, for the time that that football game is on, everything becomes clear. By sitting in front of that television set and rooting for fifty-six men possibly hundreds of miles away, you are somehow helping them to victory. Sure, it may be avoiding the real problem, but for that period of time all the rules are set in stone (excluding, possibly, pass-interference penalties) and there is no more ambiguity. Nirvana!

Even the quandary about the nature of God is explained. On any given Sunday there will be players on both sides of the field praying to God for victory. Of course, only one team can win. How does this solve the problems associated with God’s reasons for doing things? Simple: God helped the winners win and tested the faith of the losers. The proof is on the scoreboard. And, of course, what happens in the afterlife, when all of this is over? Depending upon that score, you, alternately, drink champagne and harass the women reporters or there is much wailing and gnashing of the teeth. In the rare event that the result is a bastard-ass tie, both parties are sent to purgatory pending the results of next week’s game.

In literature, the mysterious character Godot from Beckett’s play is sometimes said to be an off-anagram for God. The plot of the work centers on man’s wait for this character to appear and the hope needed in the face of absurdity. But in football, there’s only four fifteen-minute quarters. If Godot doesn’t get his ass in gear and make an appearance by halftime, he’s looking at a real blowout.

So, this Sunday, when you’re getting together with friends to watch the game, be sure to put the angst on a shelf. Enjoy the moment of pure, absolute understanding for what it is. All of your questions will be answered and nirvana is there to be had for at least a good three hours. After all, it only makes sense.

 

Originally published:
Issue Fourteen
October 2001

 

 

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