I’ve been thinking about competitive sports lately. It started with musings triggered by plans to go see the Mad Rollin’ Dolls with a few of my fearless, peerless writer friends, with hopes of blogging about the experience. (We’re doing a “writing attack”–opposite of a retreat.)
Then at this week’s “First Monday, First Person” salon, Diane Hughes read a piece about her evolving relationship with the idea of competitive sports. It touched on the blankness or actual revulsion many women of my generational cohort feel: “I don’t understand the focus of sports. Why do people care about the position of a ball?” She pondered the competing claims that sports strengthens character by teaching us to lose with grace vs. the trauma of being the last chosen for teams. Her essay went on to explore how women have claimed sports as a feminist activity, and the outlet for emotions that sporting events provide.
This took my thoughts deeper about the upcoming women’s roller derby event, and my relation to sports throughout my life, which has pretty much been, “ooh, gross.”
Sounds of sports have been in my life since earliest memory–the playing fields of the Carmel schools were within a few hundred yards of our house. Baseball’s “ay-batta-batta-batta-batta” chant echoed through my summers. The football field was just as close, and the crowd’s roar under the Friday night lights was just as persistent. Sports were there, but they had nothing to do with me.
One summer of rec-program day camp turned me off every form of team sports. If that weren’t enough, my spectacular dunk in the opposing team’s basket during the one time I took to the court in gym class basketball sealed my disgust for the whole deal.
My high school years coincided with Title IX but I snuck out just before its mandates began to change girls’ participation in sports. And by then, I had adopted the hippie rejection of organized anything–including the ritualized war that was competitive sports. (Yes, I joined a YMCA fencing team–but only because I needed to recuperate a broken ankle, and the swashbuckling appealed to me. Besides, it’s a 1:1 sport–you cannot let your team down in actual play, only in accumulation of points.)
I get, in principle, how organized team sports brought opportunities for young women that have been life-changing. The goal-setting, the self-confidence, the physical strength, the ability to operate under pressure, the adaptability to environments and situations, the leadership lessons–all good. Even the ability to understand and use sports metaphors, a requirement in business.
But still, like Diane, I wonder why people care about the position of a ball when there is so much else of beauty and importance to attract us… so many causes needing our energy to change society… why so much time, energy, not to mention money, still going toward the position of a spheroid object on some arbitrary field of play?
So let’s go there! Bring it on, fellow memoirists and ponderers about life and the world! What has been the role of competitive sports in your life so far? What did you think about it then, what do you think about it now, and how far has that ball moved down that field?
Comment! Or better yet, send me your stories to publish here. Let the Season of Sport commence.