January 25, 2008


sport is good for you, apparently. It provides valuable exercise, also a moral ethos - good clean fun, fair competition, self-discipline, setting and meeting goals etc. Just the sort of thing that our young people need.

Drugs and match fixing aside -incidentally, why has the Olympic comittee or FA or whoever not been considered simply permitting all drugs in sport ? If everyone could take whichever performance enhancing substances they chose, it would remove any unfair advantage from those who use them when others don't, and the quantities ingested would simply be another test of competitors' endurance, stamina and single-mindedness. I'd actually prefer to see that, a whole load of fuckers necking as many pills, jacking up whatever until they had no veins, until they collapse into a frothing coma or run off, barking, at traffic. Come to think of it, I have often seen that...and yes, I did prefer it.

Anyway, to return to my point: sport likes to present itself as a meritocracy. The fact that Man U, Arsenal or chelsea can afford the best players that money can buy, then pamper, does not seem to dent their reputations - they still win

Sport, as has often been observed, creates an abstract field in which other conflicts can be played out. Being abstract, it deals with these conflicts within a closed system - the game. The level playing field, which is in itself a convenient fantasy may, or may not,be achievable within the game. Insofar as it is, that is precisely because the game excludes all context. If all context is abolished in the case of a society we are left with the ultimate particle that our society is based on, the single voting and consuming subject; the beneficiary of all the government initiatives about "choice" (a defining quality of the individual, though naturally only excercised within the options offered by authority). Rules, naturally, are agreed by common consent, or at least those that are inherited are accepted. Teams or players playing according to different sets of rules would make a nonsense of the whole thing. Who told us the rules and why is our consent assumed?

The result is all; the best team, or the best player, won. This gets measured by the particular currency of the game, whether goals or lap times. Of course, this system is validated when a team from an impoverished African nation does well in the world cup for example. Purpose built training grounds and carefully managed diets and medical care matter not at all, we are expected to believe this. Except when they do. This will not be considered in the final score anyway. Individualistic sports, say atheletics, extol the virtues of private striving on a level playing field. Team games -despite the fact that individual players become lionised- show the importance of taking one's allotted place in an endeavour for the common good, slimming or giving up smoking for the sake of not draining the NHS anyone?

Our fondest myths about ourselves are enshrined in sport, at any rate the myths that we are encouraged to believe. It is not surprising that sportswear, the uniform of meritocracy, is everywhere. In the absence of any other values being abstracted away in the name of the level playing field, all-other-things-being-equal, what is left is running shoes (for taking part in a lifelong marathon that was fixed from the start, all-other-things-being-far-from-equal), the baseball cap, perhaps to keep the sun from obscuring that ever receding goal and of course, the hoody- a post training garment that becomes de rigeur when neither the training nor the fucking event comes into view. But we're ready for it, innit.

To declare an institution or nation a meritocracy is a magical act, it instantly abolishes any inequalities or barriers to the individual's fullest development (eg. getting their own faces in the collective trough). If everyone that has, deserved to have; the corollary is that if you don't have, you never deserved it -you didn't try hard enough.

1 comment:

Barry Squiggins said...

Thing is Robin, got a message for yuo from some weirdo i met the oterh night who says he knows you, i don't know, er, Jason was it? I don't know ,anyway he reckons he can't understand what us lot are saying cos if we're working class we ought to sound thick, innit? so i said fuck that and smashed him really hard in the face with that Zizek book yuo lent me, nice one,
love Baz