Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Essence of Sport

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Essence of Sport

Article excerpt

The Essence of Sport

Editors: Vemer Matter and John Nauright

University Press of Southern Denmark, 2003

This book comprises an interesting collection of papers presented at a seminar held at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, in the year 2000. It was largely inspired by publicity about the widespread use of drugs by participants in professional and, less frequently, amateur sports, but some of the papers go beyond this well-worn topic to speculate on the popularity of spectator sports and the violence that certain professional sports seem to encourage amongst fans. It comprises seven papers, each by a different commentator, that begin with a definition of sport, and then proceed to discuss the emergence of commercial sport, the reasons why commercial sport commands such emotional support amongst its fans, indepth studies of nationalism in Finnish sports, and the drug scandal in the 1998 Tour cle France.

Sport is essentially elitist. Originating perhaps in the physical joy of exercise and the desire to achieve over others, sport has in more recent times become a spectator event which, although primarily driven by economic forces, nevertheless fascinates myriads of spectators who may have nothing to gain either physically or financially.

Several factors come to the fore in the course of these various presentations. While sport for health's sake or for the pleasure of exercise is not a significant part of modern commercial sport, the competitive spirit that expressed itself in the Olympics of classical Greece remains a major factor amongst participants. There is a win or lose force prompting both competitors and spectators; and there is also the fascination of pressing the human body to its maximum level of performance.

Other contributions detect an aesthetic appeal in sport that helps bind the spectator to any specific game with which they have become familiar. In every sport, enthusiasts are attracted by the existence of a pattern which is regularly repeated, and find pleasure in seeing the pattern of the game repeated again and again, but with variations that make each game different from the last. There is a comforting familiarity in the rules of the sport, and an element of excitement in the variations that occur in the performance of the established ritual.

Considerable attention is directed by the authors to the problem of drug use in relation to sports. …

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