I’ll get back to more traditional economics stuff in the next one.
I watched a couple of movies the other night. A few of us play the “double feature game.” The idea is to pick two movies that fit really well together and then watch them both. So we watched Death Race 2000 and the original Roller Ball. At the end we were chatting about the movies and watching some of the commentary. The commentary was pretty predictable. “I was trying to show how violent society is becoming and how sports are really violence condoned.” The basic idea they seemed to be trying to put across in the interviews was the violence in sports is abhorrent and should immediately be stopped. The spectacle of sport is morally wrong seemed to be the basis of the argument.
Those who know me know that I enjoy sports, playing more than watching, but both. Some I was somewhat puzzled by these movie makers decrying sports.
Here’s what I see as the problem. Sport is the purest and most honest form of drama. The required element of drama is conflict. Without conflict there is no drama. Try to imagine a movie in which everybody got along and everything was ok. There’d be no drama. It would also be the most boring movie ever created. Now think about the best movie you’ve ever seen. The centre of the movie was a conflict, either between two or more people, between a person and a system, or between people and nature. Drama requires that people or things be seen to be trying to achieve different and often mutually exclusive goals. This sounds like a perfect description of sport to me. Two players or teams are trying to achieve mutually exclusive goals – winning.
The thing about drama, as we think of plays and movies, is that it often involves hidden agendas, betrayal, and emotional manipulation. In many cases there is extreme violence, except that it is entirely emotional rather than physical. Graphical portrayals of this type of violence are seen as high art rather than the grotesque spectacle that sport delivers. Interesting; fake and deceptive equates to high art while open and honest equates to gross spectacle.
What complete and utter nonsense. In sports we all know who’s on what team, there are clear rules defining acceptable behaviour, there are well defined penalties for deviating from that behaviour, and the conflict is open and honest. The only real difference is that the violence manifests as physical in sport and emotional in “high art”.
In an era in which we have virtually destroyed all conflict resolution mechanisms short of capitulation or extreme violence (war) we should be celebrating the one remaining honest representation of drama, sport.