Mash's Musings

Sports are dumb

Published Apr. 14, 2021

I'd imagine most people reading the title are either relieved to finally hear what they haven't been allowed to say their whole lives or are already coming up with answers for why I'm wrong. I'm not talking about lowercase sports, the games we play for fun, fitness, and competition. I am saying that Sports — the televised media phenomenon involving following favorite teams, tracking stats, and arguing about players — are dumb.

There is an element of this which I think nobody will disagree with. Everyone at some level is aware that how many times someone throws a ball through a hoop or carries a ball past a painted line doesn't matter. And yet, people defend their love for Sports with a passion.

People often argue that their passion for Sports stems from their passion to see people reach pinnacles of human achievement and athleticism. But if this were the only or main reason, we would expect the most useful or relatable proficiencies to be the most highly esteemed. The fact that you know the names of more basketball players on a single team than you do master carpenters, ultramarathoners, and memory athletes combined should prove that this love for achievement is not the key factor.

Looking past the facade, Sports are really just a way for us to revel in our tribalistic tendencies in a socially acceptable way. They start off as normal entertainment and offer an easy way to connect with others and have fun. But at some point we find ourselves transformed from spectator to sports fan. When the outcome of the game starts triggering an emotional response, the player or the team becomes a part of our identity. And this identification with and glorification of Sports is where the heart of the issue lies.

What we tie our identities to, and thus what ends up getting elevated to celebrity status in society, is a reflection of our values. Ambitiously, we can think of values such as pushing the frontiers of human achievement or seeking fundamental truths. More simply, we can think of values such as living a healthy life or fostering loving relationships. But what values are reflected when we tie our identity to competition over useless games based on geographical location?

While this seems like a scathing review of Sports, I actually don't have a problem with just watching sports. Have fun and enjoy the spectacle of seeing giant superhumans dunk rubber balls! Just take a step back to reflect the next time you find yourself upset about a certain team losing or arguing about what a player ought to have done. What is it you really care about?