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Running through the Acronym (4) Sport

January 13, 2010

I have always been into sport – everything from football to volleyball and cricket to hurling – but, as I get older, I find myself fascinated by the role it plays in our lives: why is it so fascinating? why do people obsess about it? does it affirm or harm us when taken to extremes? And what is the difference between participating and spectating?

This reflection is made all the more interesting because, strangely, I can fully understand the opposing point of view. When somebody snorts at my devotion to Hibs and remarks: “It’s just a load of silly men chasing a ball around”, I can see immediately their point of view and wouldn’t really argue against it.

However, against that, I have to weigh my own personal experiences over 50 years or so: the joy of your team scoring a goal, the perfect contentment of a day spent with friends watching county cricket, the explosion of community feeling at a championship Gaelic Football match, the nailbiting tension of a tennis tie break or a golf play off, the perfection of an expertly executed stroke in cricket, golf, badminton, hurling. And, as a participant: the release of a goal scored on the five a side pitch, an ace served in tennis, a perfect spike in volleyball, a cheeky flick in squash, a middle stump knocked out by a yorker, a blinding return catch, the perfectly timed header….and so on.

Sport is clearly about many things: a bonding exercise, the pursuit of some kind of perfection, translation of theory to practice, a competitive imperative in a less than serious world, a substitute for something else, a means of denial, a satisfaction of the craving for certain chemicals – or should we see it as something much more simple, something that should not be over analysed.

And maybe that’s the attraction: sport is everything and nothing, crucial and irrelevant, all involving and distracting, a raison d’etre and a mindless frippery, laughter and tears, empowering and humiliating, inclusive and divisive, fun and fury, satisfying and frustrating. In other words, it mirrors the human condition, and maybe that’s why some of us are enthralled by it, and others seek to dismiss it.

I’ve just become aware of the irony of the heading: since four laps round the school as a ten year old, through the London Marathon and countless 5 and 10Ks, running has been a part of my life, though not always as big a part as I would have liked (lazy b!). Inevitably, then, I am  not covering the acronym or following the acronym but running through it –  a bit like the pain barrier!

I hope I’ll blog the lighter, more fun and interesting moments and not weigh sport down under the intensity of scrutiny. After all, it is a thing of the moment which inhabits our memory and fuels our dreams.

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