Magazine article The American Conservative

When Sport Is an Art

Magazine article The American Conservative

When Sport Is an Art

Article excerpt

Sport the world over is under suspicion of cheating by doping, or outright fixing, as two tennis umpires have been barred for life and four more are under investigation: track and field, bicycle racing, baseball, and now football, with the saintly Peyton Manning having to deny rumors even as he received his Super Bowl ring. A wise man (my father) once told me that sport is only pure when amateurs compete, otherwise money will eventually corrupt it. I thought he was a bit over the top. Now I know he wasn't.

What is the difference between an amateur athlete and a pro? Both strive for excellence, the difference being the amateur glories in his effort to reach perfection, the pro sees the goal in financial terms.

Basically, a pro is a mercenary, who sells himself to the highest bidder. A perfect example was Cam Newton shying away from throwing himself on his fumble during the closing moments of the Super Bowl, obviously thinking why hurt yourself in a lost game? Why risk future millions in a losing cause? An amateur would have dived for the ball, and to hell with the consequences.

Corruption breeds only among professionals. Soccer is called the beautiful game, but it's also the most corrupt. The billions of dollars involved made it possible for out and out crooks from Africa and the Gulf states to rule the game, which they still do despite the fall from grace of their enabler in chief, Sepp Blatter.

Which brings me to karate, the martial art that has now morphed into a sport, a sport that has given me more pleasure in life than anything, girls and family aside, and not necessarily in that order. Karate began as an ancient Chinese art in self-defense but was perfected by the Japanese following World War II. It teaches respect to one's teacher above all, as well as to one's opponents. There is no trash talking, no cheating, definitely no showing off. It is not to be confused with the bar fighting that you now see on television, a so-called sport that goes by the name of mixed martial arts.

Mind you, most of the mixed-martial artists began as karatekas, where they learned to kick and punch and block. There is no wrestling in karate, the point being that a punch or a kick should be lethal enough to end it. This is called kime, or focus. …

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