Recently I was interviewed by Blake Hodge with the North Carolina News Network, and we talked a lot about play. Every human being plays, and sport is one form of play that we all can share. We are so wired to play that we’re willing to pay to watch other people do it!
On a deeper level, there’s much more to sport and play than the game-to-game life. Play is like wisdom. It’s contemplation of higher things and done for its own end, not for some other reason. That’s part of what attracts us to sport. We are drawn to excellence, we love watching sports highlight reels of incredible plays. When we watch a world class athlete perform, it makes us wonder on a higher level how we were made to do something this awesome.
Sport can unify. For example, if you’re at a baseball game you’re not thinking about who the person sitting next to you voted for in the last election. You’re simply enjoying a common experience. Think about all the times a sporting event has brought people together after tragedy, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina or a Red Socks game after the Boston Marathon bombing.
Blake asked how sports can be used to advance social issues. What this brought to mind was the Olympics. I was in the Olympics trials myself in 1980 when I learned the U.S. had boycotted the Moscow Games. The history of the Olympic Games has a number of examples of countries protesting or boycotting over social issues, including the upcoming Sochi, Russia Games. It’s the nature of politics to use such high profile events as a platform because sport is such a universal commonality.
When we watch athletes who compete and perform at the highest levels we can enjoy the experience as if we’re playing ourselves. Too often the focus on the negative aspects of sports, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If your perspective is on sport for the pure joy of play, it is easier to focus on the virtues instead of the sensational, negative aspects.