Sport: I’m just disinterested.

On the weekend, Cadel Evans won the Tour de France. Early in the week, Mia Freedman appeared on the Today show and gave her honest opinion on what she felt about it.

I’m inclined to agree with her.

I just made a comment on Lehmo’s blog and it ended up being so long that I should just pass it off as a blog post in its own right.

Lehmo made an excellent point when he said:

“He’s not a hero, he’s a sportsperson”, they say. I’m happy to accept that in a broader sense athletes are not heroes. However, within the context of their sports they can put in heroic performances.

I think this really nails where the disconnect is happening in this whole debate.

Poor Mia Freedman copped a caning for what she said when she was asked her opinion, and gave it. I don’t think she was being disrespectful to Cadel; she just doesn’t get excited about sport. And a disinterested minority of us feel the same way.

Now, I’m not averse to sport. I’ve led a pretty active life and knocked various balls of different shapes and sizes around various playing surfaces with varying degrees of success. Participation in sport is, in my view, one of the defining qualities in Australian culture.

I can also enjoy watching sport at an elite level because those doing it know how to do it really well, and I can appreciate the skill it takes to be the best at something. Sure, watching golf leaves me pretty cold and seeing people swim from one end of a pool to another is as boring as, well, watching people swim laps of a pool (how CAN that be interesting?). But come the World Cup, I’ll get up at 4 to watch a good game, and if it’s a good game, I’ll enjoy it.

Where sport does confuse me is the level of emotional investment people have in supporting one team or one player over another. These days, team support is fairly arbitrary. It’s not like the starting 18 for Carlton all live in Carlton; they’re just a bunch of guys who are good at football that were offered a contract with Carlton. The days when you gave “the local team” a cheer at the weekend match are, at the elite level, well and truly over. Teams aren’t location based, players are contracted employees and where they live is irrelevant.

Now, I don’t know Cadel Evans. Never met him. I’m sure he’s a top guy and if he’s just won a big race, then good on him. That must be hard to do. I couldn’t do it; I wouldn’t want to. But I’m not going to jump up and down for him any more than I’m going to jump up and down for Sven Svensson from Svenssonland if he’d won it.

Cadel’s Australian. Great, so are 20 million other people. A common nationality is just no longer a big enough factor to make this person “familiar” to me.

I think that’s where we sport agnostics sit. There’s just not enough of a connection between us and any sporting great to make that kind of significant emotional investment into the result of something trivial.

And sport is trivial. Occasionally it may spill into the political arena (and sometimes spills into rioting and violence at the extreme level and anger and frustration at a personal level).

But most sport is played as it’s own reward and does very little outside the context of sport. Being the fastest person in the world only gets you a big coin on a ribbon; winning the grand final gets you another trophy for the pool room. And a year later, they give away another one.

It’s a lot like music. All Mia did the other day was the equivalent of telling an audience of pre-pubescent girls that she wasn’t a Bieber fan.

Pure heresy in context. To the rest of the world, meh, neither here nor there, really.

Leave a Reply