Why *Spectator* Sports is not the Hope of any Society

I know, my colleague Ilda had an article why she believes in sports as a good thing to get into. Sports has exercise and helps develop competitive spirit, desire to grow and grit. I agree with that. Some even say, better to be into sports (at least it’s a hobby) rather than getting into drugs. True, and there are benefits to it.

But about sports helping unite us, I doubt. Sports has actually been very divisive, especially when you consider sports team rivalries. One part of the problem is that Filipinos are not into sports per se. They are into spectator sports. They’re the ones watching, not the one playing. Of course, this happens in the U.S. and other countries, too. But does this really benefit us? In addition, we Filipinos still have this unhealthy fixation on a single sport, basketball.

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One of the signs the Roman Empire was in decline was its preoccupation with gladiatorial combat to keep the populace busy. That’s the same function spectator sports serve today. In my view, we can have all these sports and games without needing any large media displays of them. But they serve the purpose of keeping people distracted and placated. Just as the gladiatorial combats had its celebrities (such as Spartacus), we have “sports heroes.” They are touted as inspirations for people to get into sports or healthier habits. But do they actually do that?

Not only that. Spectator sports still has a mendicancy mentality to it. For me, I never understood identifying with a team. The team wins, you as a fan are happy. When it loses, you are depressed. I never quite caught on to that. I relate it to mendicancy, because you depend on others for how good or bad you feel. Perhaps people will tell me I am an unfeeling asshole for not identifying with others this way. But I did say that emotional investment on others can be unnecessary. We don’t need to feel bad or good just because others do. It is not really “charity,” commiseration or camaraderie to identify with a sports team – it is just admiration of a celebrity, which is never genuine caring for another.

There are other things, which Gogs talked about, such as low standards both in media and in our expectations. But perhaps another argument is that sports is associated with increased violence in youth – perhaps because of the competitive spirit becoming so aggressive, the aggression spills over into other parts of life (as well as hooliganism, and in the recent Gilas-Boomers brawl, which also served as gladiatorial entertainment). That can be a serious downside, so perhaps people need to study this more and see how they could tweak sports to reduce aggressive mentalities. And sports rivalries often stupidly spill over into something bigger. Think of the infamous Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969.

Of course, I don’t say people should stop sports initiatives. But I believe sports is not being handled the way it should. Many sportspeople and supporters believe you need the big media displays like NFL, NBA and all that to get people into sports. But is that really true? Has anybody done a study on it?

I’d say spectator sports isn’t really a good tool for drawing people into getting into sports itself. Because, in the end, the companies paying for it are all about the marketing mileage. They don’t care that much about whether people get into sports are healthy in the end. They likely even don’t care about whether someones achieves their dreams of being the next Michael Jordan or anything. They just want their people to buy the products they advertise during the event. Or they may even favor events like brawls because these can increase ratings.

Oh wait, I was wrong about their not caring about whether someone become the next Michael Jordan. They do, because such people become their next cash cows. Like how record companies pick from the contestants (not necessarily winners) of American Idol.

I will admit that I am personally biased against sports, since I believe people can get exercise without a competitive setup. For example, mountain trail biking without a race, or just going hiking. It’s just that I believe people should develop their own interest in sports without the help of the media. There is no need for superstars or large televised events; just a personal interest. Sure, we could use a little media, perhaps video games, to promote some sports. But sports programs might be better off not depending on big business, and local community efforts might work better.

Others will say, you’re going uphill against businesses, you dumbass. Well, a fight that’s worth it. I’ve said that we as consumers have power by choosing what we consume, so we don’t let them dictate us on whether to get interested in sports or not. Then people say, I am bad for business, I’m not supporting businesses. I have the right to do this. We consumers should stop consuming or adjusting our lifestyles based on popularity and should have some resistance to what is advertised to us.

On the recent issue, I personally believe even if Australian players were the first to play dirty, the Gilas team’s reaction was wrong, and so the suspensions on both sides were appropriate. Perhaps it’s better, since if this is what our team is bound to encounter all throughout the tournament, better they be spared from it. But in the end, does this matter to the country as a whole? Perhaps it only mattered not because Gilas would be unable to win a tournament, but because it showed our inadequacies as a people. And since people would rather support these inadequacies instead of admitting they are something to fix, then it explains why our country is in the pits. Perhaps because of sports not helping us address our inadequacies but being the arena where they are exposed, then sports probably isn’t going to help us much.

17 Replies to “Why *Spectator* Sports is not the Hope of any Society”

    1. I was in university during the first Gulf War My prof pointed out that there was some similarity in the logos and themes of both the war and the WWF . World Wrestling Federation is what Vince McMahon’s wrestling was known as back then.

  1. Let me address some of the questions you ask as you explore this topic bud. 1) sports as entertainment. Just about any movie is entertaining because of the conflict. Sports is entertainment with a score. Sports ( Black Sox scandal excluded) is the ultimate drama because even the participants do not know the outcome. Sports is the “real”reality TV. You mess up you get fired, for real. You have a good year at the right time even a player making the league minimum can soon begin to alter his family’s future for generations. 2) Allegiance to a team. Yes I am the one who said in the PBA you are loyal to products not to a city or tradition . Indicative of the epal nature of the Filipino. Even the national team is joined at the hip with a product. In the US which has the most variety of big time sports it is more regional and traditional. Season tickets for NFL stadiums in New Jersey, Washington, Green Bay and Denver are handed down from generation to generation. The waiting list is measured in years. You went to games with your dad and you go to games with your kids. There are retired numbers and famous moments. Even when your team sucks you go. Even when you move cities out of necessity you don’t jump on the bandwagon of your new city. 3) I agree with you that because sports is a way of getting fit that there should be no room for dangerous and illegal performance enhancing drugs.

    1. Thanks, great comment, Gogs. I know you’re a sports fan, but you know how to do it right. Sadly, many others take their sports entertainment too seriously and go too far with identification. I’m sure I’d piss off people when I say supporting Gilas’ brawl is like supporting impunity for politicians in this country. By the way, do you remember MBA? I forgot if you had discussed that, but that was short-lived because it was based on regional teams, and that sometimes fueled regional rivalries. That tells a lot about us.

      Oh yes, about products, I always found it funny how Philippine basketball teams have been named after products and brands, and only lately they developed monickers, but still product based: “painters,” “milkmen.” That probably demonstrates how Filipinos are such suckers for marketing tactics, because they don’t want to think about anything, they just want to receive things.

      1. Was that the one with the Negros Slashers and Batangas Blades? Sadly I remember some politicians were tasked with trying to support players and/ or teams. Sad that the country is so Manila centric that the one pro sport that people care about is only relegated to one city. One thing I did not mention in my first response is if the PBA was about tradition then there would still be a Crispa and a Toyota. Its a revolving door. There is no constant. Plus the fact imagine the San Miguel conglomerate at one point owned half the teams in the PBA and nobody cared to inquire about conflict of interest. That is pinoy mentality for you at its finest.

        1. Ah, so that’s it. Politicians got involved. No wonder it got ugly. And I had forgotten that about San Miguel. “Conflict of interest? No problem as long as it’s my interest,” says the Pinoy.

    2. It’s like being a true blue Star Wars fan. The Han Solo movie was planned by critics and bombed at the box office but I stand by it as a movie that just had to be made and had to be seen — because it adds to the fantasy ecosystem that was part of my childhood.

  2. Why doing sports?
    Its rather very simple. When a person has a 40 hr desk job (or any job for that matter or even when being unemployed), that person wants to be fit, sharp and healthy. I think the cheapest sport is maybe jogging. Everyone can do it and everyone can do it alone. Take your iPod with you and run/jog for a few miles every day.

    When you prefer a team sport then just look at where your talents are and which sport(s) you like best.

    1. I believe there’s a difference between sports and exercise. Jogging alone would be exercise, not a sport. Running a race would be a sport. I’d prefer exercise without the competitive element.

      1. Most people who jog make it a sport by setting new limits/goals/targets (1 mile, 2 miles, 3 miles etc) or beat the clock. Can I make it faster to do that 1 mile?! Because it (jogging) is not organized (by a sports club) there is no competition. But within that individual, there is a competition.
        So for most (and certainly myself) I/they approach jogging as a sport. Getting better at it every day (that is the challenge).

  3. This is a really bad article.

    When did spectator sports been considered a hope in any country? And who even made that claim?

    Sports is just one form of entertainment that the masses will always gravitate towards. And all sports are spectator sports because THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN AUDIENCE. From chess matches to badminton to football. Even e-sports are spectator sports.

    It is a market for one of the 2 most basic of human conditions: the need for entertainment and competitive instinct.

    But the most important aspect of sports is the showcase of teamwork combined with talent and skills. And this is the main reason why sports is spectator sports. Maybe the author is simply incapable of seeing the art showcased in every movement and every attack to gain a score or how a extremely skilled athlete gets bested so easily by superb teamwork. But the obvious proof to this is how the author compares todays’ sports to the gladiator matches of Ancient Rome.

    1. I’d say fans depending on a Gilas win likely consider that win as something for the country’s “pride.” I believe when they do that, they put their hope for “pride” in the spectator sport they are a fan of.

      Sure, there is a market for that, but as Gogs said, that “art showcased in movement” has been reduced to a mere product. In a way, perhaps that art has been reduced by commercialism. Well, perhaps I’m not an appreciator of the art in sports, and I have nothing against anyone who are. But when I’m told I should appreciate sports the way others should, I see that as comparable to SJWs forcing me to accept the gender they invented. To each their own. Oh, and I suppose you disagree with the video comparing modern sports to gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome.

      Perhaps the need for entertainment and competitive instinct are not really needs, but are just substitutes for boredom. Or, perhaps only entertainment is the need. There is entertainment in other places other than sports, and competitive spirit is perhaps something we could live without. Maybe some people need it, but there are some who don’t, and their lives are just as complete.

      1. Let us assume that the art and skill are reduced to a mere product. So what?

        The logic can even go further and then used to claim that a soldier is reduced to a mere tool of war. A farmer reduce to a mere tool of a provider.

        Yes, there is entertainment on things that are not sports. But what entertains a person is not something subject to his/her conscious will,. It is pure reaction. An instinctive response to a given stimuli. The same is true to competitiveness, an instinct kept even for thousands of years of human evolution because it is a trait necessary to thrive.

        Sure, one can argue that modernity somehow lessens its necessity, expounded by the foolish pursuit of the ever elusive equality. Unfortunately, biology is simply too difficult a habit to break, even my “post-modernist ideals”. And biology simply picks what is best for survival, not what is best for ones feelings.

  4. Back then, the powerful Roman Empire was declining. It wass beginning to fall; it was rotten within, and the Barbarians were already marching toward their gates. The Roman Emperors, did a distraction: “Bread and Circus”. Gladiators fight to death; condemned people being fed to animals; chariot races; sexual promiscuity; animated naval battles; etc…

    It is the same in our times : basketball sports; shabu drugs; showbiz politics; promiscuity; etc…Filipinos can be champions, by attaching themselves to the winning teams. So, we have all the sports brawls, to make your team win.

    Manny Pacquiao, was elected a Senator; inspite of his only qualification is being a world boxing champion. Well, we cannot all become Pacquiao; but we can attach ourselves to him. Then, we become champions, without any sweat !

  5. Truth is one forever absolute, but opinion is truth filtered through the moods, the blood, the disposition of the spectator.

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