11 June 2010

Rev it up and here we go

I am not a huge sports fan. I am not even a minor sports fan. In fact there are occasions when I would be hard pressed to even spell 'sports fan', but not even I can escape the fact that the World Cup is starting today, without us.

Us, of course, being Ireland, for although I hold dual citizenship my loyalties have never been divided come international sporting events, and I am certainly not going to start throwing my lot in now with The Other Side just because they qualified and Ireland didn't, though admittedly if I did I would be increasing the US sock-ah fanbase by at least 50%.

Nope, without a national side to cheer on I will most likely only see a match by accident, while passing by a pub with large windows or switching on the TV to get my regular fix of 'Strictly Come Die With Me', everyone's favorite celebrity assisted-euthanasia program (this week I'll mostly be cheering for, Ryan Tubridy), only to discover that its been replaced by Botswana vs Azerbaijan, a crucial match to decide the bottom of Group Q.

So no, I am most definitely not what one could call a 'sports fan'.

Someone who could most definitely be called a 'sports fan', though unfortunately of the wrong sort of football, is our good friend Mr Tim over at Inessentials, the man responsible for introducing me to the Green Bay Packers and Mountain Dew almost simultaneously, and the jury is still out as to which has done more lasting damage to my health. Mr Tim recently delivered a paper on the ethics of sports fandom entitled "Is Team Loyalty a Virtue?" at a conference on Sport and Society co-sponsored by the Green Bay Packers, and that paper is now available on his website.

You see, this is why America qualifies for major sporting events and we do not, their teams host philosophy symposia. Also, they tend to organise World Championships and never seem to get round to inviting other nations to play, which dramatically increases the likelihood of a Team USA win.

Anyway, while the paper focuses on US sports and only mentions sock-ah in passing (seriously Mr Tim, football hooliganism is so last century, except in South America, or Eastern Europe, or Turkey, or the UK, or Germany, or, um, you know, never mind) it is an interesting insight into an area that seems to get very little discussion, possibly because of the rather low crossover between professional philosophers and dedicated sports fans (though perhaps even as we speak the Alain Badiou Onze is lacing-up to prove me wrong, no doubt by fisting the ball into the back of the net like most Frenchmen).

No matter, unlike the rest of the country (and possibly the civilized world), life will go on here at Booming Back as normal over the next four weeks, there will be highs, there will be lows, and almost certainly there will be a few no-score draws, which, this being Ireland, are always as good as a win.



At 4:03 pm, Anonymous inessentials said...

In the paper, I focus on American sports because (1) I'm more familiar with it and (2) I want to focus on club teams, since loyalty to national teams is so closely intertwined with (surprise!) nationalism. It's a common complaint against the Olympics. (Why should I support an athlete simply because they were born in the country where I was born?) The World Cup is critiqued less often for that, but national identities are even more explicit. (Consider how styles of play are associated with particular countries.)

I take full responsibility for any shortening to your life span based on Green Bay Packers football and/or Mt. Dew.

I know many academics, including philosophers, who are sports fans. There is even an official society on the Philosophy of Sport: http://iaps.net/ (with journal). Also a blog (nothing is official until there is a blog promoting it): http://philosophyandsports.blogspot.com/

You and your readers may also be interested in this article: "Is our admiration for sports heroes fascistoid?" Abstract: http://www.cababstractsplus.org/abstracts/Abstract.aspx?AcNo=19991805708

At 5:14 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

Team sports and nationalism have always been a very complicated thing in Ireland north and south, from the long-standing and only recently lifted Gaelic Athletic Association ban on UK soldiers and police from being members of its Gaelic Football and Hurling Clubs to the adoption in Northern Ireland of Scottish football (sock-ah) team jerseys as proxies in their sectarian disputes to get around workplace bans on national flags.

Here in the Republic while football (sock-ah) is at least as popular as our indigenous Gaelic football and hurling, it is English teams that most fans support, following them as religiously as US fans follow their regional NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL franchise or college team. In fact most Irish fans would follow an English football (sock-ah) club that has little, if any, direct connection with Ireland. Manchester United, which in recent years has been the most popular team with Irish fans, was traditionally the Protestant and anti-Catholic team in Manchester, with Catholics only allowed to play for rivals Manchester City.

At an international level our national Football (sock-ah) team has frequently been comprised of a majority of players that not only were not born in Ireland, nor have they ever lived in Ireland, in fact their only connection to Ireland has been a single grandparent that emigrated to the UK in the dim and distant past. While this has changed in recent years with some of the players selected actually being drawn from our local football (sock-ah) leagues as opposed to the UK leagues, the fact is that fans are cheering on the concept of a national team, rather than the false reality of our athletes as pinnacles of Irish manhood/womanhood.

In the North sport is a proxy for religious and nationalist ambitions and dogma, wheras here in the South we happily dispense with 800 years of history to be able to cheer on a winning side in the pub on a Saturday afternoon.

Football (sock-ah) may be the beautiful game, but on our green and pleasant island it certainly isn't a simple game.


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