Imagine being paid a six figure sum each year to roll around in the mud and chase a piece of leather. This is how former AFL footballer Justin Madden described his career. Never mind six figures. What about all those guys being paid millions to chase bits of rubber and leather about? This madness reaches its pinnacle with Cristiano Ronaldo, who is paid twelve million euros per year to follow a ball around and occasionally kick it into a net. Have these people spent years studying at university? Do they hold the lives of millions, or even one person, in their hands every time they perform their jobs? They are paid more than orthopaedic surgeons, politicians and nuclear physicists to do what the rest of us do for fun and for free. And why? Because we love to watch them do it.
Why do we even care if one arbitrarily chosen team scores more points or goals or whatever than another arbitrarily chosen team? Why do our moods and sometimes our entire lives hinge on these sporting results which, if they go the wrong way, can provoke us into immediate and insane violence? There is absolutely nothing depending on the outcome of these contests or even if these contests occur (we all seemed to survive the recent NHL lockout). And yet, even I am not immune. One of the greatest days of my life (falling just behind the birth of my children) came many years ago when my football team scored an upset one point victory against a rival much more highly fancied team. I lost my voice and nearly exploded with excitement when the siren went. Why? As Bear Grylls said, “If you have to ask, you will never understand” (Mud, Sweat and Tears).
When I think about it objectively I really can’t explain it. I know, deep down, that it doesn’t matter but I still can’t help feeling devastated when things go wrong and gloat mercilessly when they go right. I assume it is some kind of tribalism, some kind of group bonding pitting my group against your group. I felt the same thing while playing. Suddenly guys you wouldn’t give the time of day to if you met them on the street were your best mates, to be defended and supported to the death. Bizarre, but it generated an incredible sense of camaraderie, in supporters as well as players, which just wouldn’t exist if you didn’t have a common enemy.
Many people denigrate sport because it generates a primitive tribal aggression amongst its adherents. And they would be right. Most sports are, after all, played by males. However, isn’t this kind of ritual aggression better than the real thing? In this day and age when, thankfully, fewer and fewer of us are called upon to go to war to defend our tribe all those evolutionarily hard wired traits are still there, and they need some kind of outlet. If men cannot indulge in the whimsy of sport then all that testosterone will spill onto the streets outside pubs after closing time.
Until the last of my testosterone leaks out of my testicles I will continue to convince myself that the support of my football club is essential to the existence of the world and that nothing could be better than to defeat the hated enemy. Go Blues!!
Dr. F. Bunny
All that whingeing about the weather must have worked. We just had an entire month’s rainfall in two days. At least the water tanks are full.