I HAVE never really understood sport, especially the organised kind like football and cricket. It all seems a bit silly and frivolous.
And yet millions, maybe billions, of people swear by it and can get quite emotional, even violent, about a game.
Papua New Guinea’s obsession with rugby is a good example. There are apparently several forms of rugby and I’m not sure which one prevails there or what the differences are. Anyway, people in PNG have died arguing about whichever one it is.
I guess psychologists would tell us it’s all about the sublimation of primitive urges to fight. Diverting people, especially men, to sport lets them play out natural aggression in a relatively harmless way.
Has football ever stopped tribal wars? I think it might have caused a few.
I don’t think any major wars have been fought over sport. Given that these seem to be triggered by even sillier things like religion or pride, I guess it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.
Maybe a major conflict over sport has come close to breaking out but not yet, thank goodness.
In this sense, sport is a kind of social engineering, a bit like television, used to keep restless populations doped up and compliant.
Still, Donald Trump appears to have been able to drag a lot of people away from their idiot boxes long enough to vote for him. I’m not sure many of them were sporting types, they all looked too overweight for that sort of thing.
Other psychologists, especially fans of Freud, tell us that games like football and soccer have deep underlying sexual connotations. I find football and soccer confusing concepts – apparently they can be the same thing.
Anyway, in the Freudian interpretation, the ball is apparently a sperm and the goalposts are the female sexual organ. The men on the field struggling to get the ball are actually competing to inseminate the goal posts. Yes, I know, it’s bizarre.
It might explain why so many footballers get into trouble with booze and women.
But it doesn’t explain why women are rapidly taking up sports like football. We even have a top level women’s AFL competition in Australia now. Work that one out Sigmund.
This fascination with sport has created another phenomenon. This one that lines up really well with modern economic orthodoxy. Sport is big bucks nowadays.
People can knock a little white ball around a paddock with a stick and get paid a million dollars to drop it into a series of holes in the ground in fewer strokes than anyone else. Apparently it has something to do with birdies, eagles and albatrosses.
How obscene is that? The million dollars I mean.
Not the ball going into the hole or, as the Freudians would have it, an act of congress.
Sportsmen and women are regularly lauded as heroes and make heaps of money letting other people stick photographs of them on questionable products.
Rugby union star Will Genia is a hero in Papua New Guinea and accorded much adoration even though he seems to look and speak like any other Australian.
An overweight bloke called Mal Meninga was once popular but has blotted his copybook apparently.
There are some positive spinoffs to sport. In Australia it is a conduit to economic independence and social advantage, especially for indigenous kids playing football.
People ask me who I barrack for. Apparently it’s a way of establishing my credibility and suitability as an acquaintance.
I tell them the Maroons, which I think is some sort of football team. If they’re still not sure about me, they ask what sort of car I drive. I usually tell them a red one.
They think I have a great sense of humour.
Our next door neighbours are mad marathon people. The wife gets up at four in the morning and runs to Hobart and back. Then she gets on her bike and does it all again. Her daughter is rapidly overtaking her.
I must admit I like to walk, but that’s got more to do with checking out the scenery and gossiping with people I meet on the way than anything half healthy.
I’ve got a brother-in-law who goes to the gym religiously every afternoon. He runs on machines, lifts lumps of iron on poles and swims up and down a heated pool.
Such wasted energy. If he burnt up the same amount of energy digging a vegetable patch he could survive for weeks and months on the output.
I know, I’m a cynical old fart who doesn’t understand.
But at least I’ve got a vegetable garden.