Magazine article Insight on the News

Sporting Life - and Death

Magazine article Insight on the News

Sporting Life - and Death

Article excerpt

Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby who some 150 years ago Televated boys' playground games to the level of sport in order to "build character," would have been horrified at the fate of Andres Escobar, the soccer player from Colombia who was shot dead after accidentary aiding a goal for the opposing team that lead to Colombia's elimination from the 1994 World Cup.

There have been dissenters from Arnold's high-minded love of sport. Writer James Joyce described his vision of hell as "an eternal rugger scrum: 'But those who survived these scrimmages were believed by generations of Britons to grow into stronger, more resolute men, ready to fight on, "press on:" During the great days of the British empire, the immense prestige of which did much to propagate the English sports cult throughout the world, the idea seemed to make sense. On the courage and iron determination of such men the British empire would stand or fall.

In those days, of course, sport was for gentlemen. The "lower orders," who worked from 12 to 14 hours a day in the fields or in the new mines and factories, had no time for frivolities. It was only when ordinary working people had the leisure for these boyish games that the world of sport began to change dramatically.

First, hordes of common people, including 14-year-olds (who'd previously started work at that age), suddenly had the leisure to play at these gentlemen's pastimes. Second - and this was vastly expanded first by the popular press, then by radio and television - an immense audience for these games grew by leaps and bounds, hardly any of whom had the faintest notion of why these sports had been fostered to begin with. For these new giant audiences, now known as "fans:" the grand world of sport had become very much a part of modern show business. The word fan itself, short fonatic, was borrowed from the entertainment world. …

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