I have played many sports, mainly as a boy but also as a young man, playing them entirely as games with other amateurs: for fun. The most fun I had was when the games were only trivially competitive, and the least fun I had — and even hate — was when I was in competitive leagues run by “sports fan” adults. I have not followed professional sports for decades, but I thought I would express myself here on competitive sports anyway, because I know there is a huge, huge international obsession with them, such as with the World Cup (football = soccer), the Olympics, the National Football League (American football), the National Basketball Association (male ballet in the U.S.A.), and the National Baseball League (baseball being the most game-like and least warlike of American sports; fun on a summer day with hot dogs and beer — even though that makes for sloppy playing!).
There is always great controversy and outrage when an elite athlete is disqualified because one or another chemical trace was detected in their bodies, in a concentration above some arbitrary amount (such as marijuana in anybody, and testosterone in women); or when a referee make a “bad call” affecting the subsequent competitive rankings of teams; or for stupid and violent behavior by a player frustrated at not getting what he or she wants.
Why so much public outrage over such incidents? Because “sports fans” are overwhelmingly obsessed with the competitive aspect of sports, with “winning,” and thus: status, notoriety, fame, money; and the fans’s vicarious association with their revered “winners.” There is much less interest — I think basically none — in the beauty of movement, the dance of the sporting activities: the grace of lithe bodies in peak physical condition artistically expressing skills of coordination and timing, and thus being elegant dynamic displays of the human form. But, nope, it’s all about “getting ahead.”
Professional sports organizations (which includes the Olympics and college leagues) seek to maintain the illusions of the “purity” of their sports, so they have many regulations and invasive testing procedures to try to ensure none of the athletic competitors “cheats” by boosting their performance abilities with supplements (hormones, chemicals) or other technical methods of enhancement (a la Frankenstein to their bodies, or by technological enhancements to their equipment).
But competition remains the real focus of everyone’s attention, so there is an eternal conflict between keeping the sports “pure” as “games”, and running them as what everyone really wants: unapologetic all out wars where all is fair in order to win. And so, there is much much hypocrisy around every cheating, disqualification, injury and abuse incident in professional sports; and in professionalized “amateur” sports by people like sports fan dads, and college donors.
That conflict catches up many athletes, and ruins their careers — which is to say their quests for records, glory, status, notoriety and most importantly wealth — because those athletes made one or another little slip in trying to thread the needle of their career along the ragged edges of the nonaligned complexes of “pure sport” and “competition.” The supreme hypocrisy of both the professional sports organizations and the sports fan public is that any athlete’s failure to perfectly suture pure sport with competition is put on them as a personal failure, rather than a systemic one. I find that hypocrisy detestable and, along with the obsession with competition, has turned me off to sports beyond the level of games children engage in and run for themselves without any adult involvement.
So I have a proposal to eliminate that chronic and endemic sports hypocrisy: eliminate all the restrictions. That’s right, unleash sports from the illusion they are fun games, and let them be all out wars: pure competition. Let athletes do to themselves whatever they think will help them win, by: ingestion, injection, implantation, surgery; anything. Test no one for anything: no drug tests, no sex tests, no behavioral reprimands; nothing. Let the games begin! What sports fans really want is gladiatorial contests: winner take all, losers die. So, free it all up and cut all the hypocrisy. We really don’t care if athletes ruin their health, or steal team signals, or surreptitiously enhance their equipment, or gamble on the outcome of matches. Winning is the only thing.
Horrors!, some will say, won’t that ruin the sports? No, it will purify them. Those people who want to engage in sports as just games to play for fun will form their own noncompetitive leagues. And they will then play with vigor but no obsession about the final score: they will play for enjoyment and without any prospect of money rewards. So such sporting activity will be inherently amateur, and entirely community: festivals instead of wars. No TV broadcasts, no multi-million dollar contracts, no big business, no celebrity culture, no national and international spectacle and drama: boring as entertainment. But fun for the festival participants.
Then the full scale big business industrial war of professional sports can really go all out to the maximum thrill of its enthralled fans, and to offer the maximum possibility of competitive (i.e., status, money, power) success for its driven careerist individuals: modern gladiators. As stories of successful intrigues and spying for advantage become known, they will enhance the sports fan public’s delight with the competitive spectacles they are devoted to.
The small number of sports afficionados who would like to see graceful game-playing on TV from the comfort of their couches, by enthusiastic and vigorous athletes who are nevertheless intrinsically noncompetitive and playing from pure joy, may possibly have some community access TV channels broadcasting local game-festivals, and even possibly internationally over the internet. In that way such fans may be able to find opportunities to watch “pure play” by non-enhanced athletes remotely, as well as by actual physical attendance at local game-festivals: hence socialist sports. All sports fans will certainly be guaranteed the ability to see all-out big-money professional sports anytime anywhere on broadcast and internet TV, and such broadcasts will be lushly garnished with corporate advertisements — which is the whole point of capitalist sports. And therein is an abstract of the politics of sports.
So there you have it: hypocrisy-free sports are possible as purely amateur socialist intrinsically noncompetitive (i.e., money-free) game-festivals, and professional sports will be liberated to carry on as their hardcore fan base and careerist athletes truly desire: all out wars for glory, fame and money.
I would see any outrage at this proposal as a de facto defense of the bloated hypocrisy enveloping all professional and professionalized sports organizations and their ‘fandoms’.
Finally, as a note of full disclosure, I have played my sports with sufficient competitive vigor to get numerous sports injuries, on: feet, ankles, legs, knees, hands, fingers, and torso.