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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 12-Mar-09


Thursday 12-March-09

Why sports?

I had an interesting conversation today around the notion of 'sport'. It's an odd phenomenon that would probably baffle any visiting Martians, to see a few people running after a ball whilst being watched by a massive crowd. The Martian might be forgiven for wondering if it was some huge psychological experiment.

So what's in it for the spectator? It is not as if there are droves of people waiting for a player to read a guide to softening a baseball glove, why would we be attracted to him hitting a ball?

The conversation started with the question 'What is sport?', which quickly became 'What isn't sport?', as the best way of defining something is often to clarify the boundaries between it and what it is not (is horse racing a sport? Is dressage?). The conclusion was that athleticism is a key factor. I don't fully agree with this but accepted the definition as I was wondering about another point.

A question I find interesting is not so much 'What is it?' as 'Why is it?' Why do we take part in sports? And perhaps even more curious is the question as to why we watch it in our droves.

Sport, we concluded, is a human thing that is played worldwide, from the beaches in Bali to baseball stadia in Alabama. Essential elements are that it is challenging, competitive and requires significant skill that comes from a combination of natural talent and dedicated practice. Competition means there are winners and losers. Whilst the most skilful might be expected to win, a degree of uncertainty makes the sport more exciting. This often appears in the risks incurred when people are pushing their bodies to the limit and when human contact may be involved.

In an evolutionary sense, sport is practice for more serious activities in the same way that young lions play games of fighting and hunting. Sport provides a release of natural aggression. It also leads to social status and position.

So what's in it for the spectator? The first benefit it is a vicarious pleasure, where we get to share the experience of the sports person without the effort or risk. There is also an illusion of control as we shout commands to the players on the field. Finally, there is significant social value in following sports, from the crowd excitement on the day to animated discussions at work.

Sports, then, are here to stay, providing significant personal and social opportunity as well as fantastic release beyond the daily drudge.

Go team!

Your comments

 As a sports studies major. Here are three things, from my own memory of the class and reading the book, to look for in order to classify as a sport.

1.Formalized rules
2.Have gross motor unit
3.Have competition and let it be based on an outcome.

This comes from Jay Coakley 9th edition.

-- stephen

 As i have very curiosity in sports i would like to inform that
- > They must know the rules of the game
- > They want to play some trail games
- > If the spectator was impressed on player then he can make a move to play


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