Helmet Over Boots In Love; Why Are We So Passionate About Sport?

The quick answer appears quite obvious: sport is entertainment. One that allows us to detract from ‘real life’ and experience something else. Furthermore, we can nearly all name a competitive sport that stirs us at gut level, as a participant or spectator, regardless of what grade it’s played at. Lace up your boots and join me in uncovering the cardinal links between our passion for sport, and who we are as humans.

Sport Inspires Us All

“Cheats”, “Liars”, “Corruption” – pick up any paper and there is sure to be a headline that details the crime, dishonesty, and scandal that the media tells us is so widespread in modern sport. Yet in spite of this, elite athletes epitomise the key principal of competition; providing the world with the greatest able-bodied, fastest, most intelligent and some of the best inspirational achievements known to man. The domain of the athlete is populated with individuals who attempt perfection and sweat for excellence. The interaction with this exclusive group – indirectly as fans, or directly as fellow competitors – induces natural motivation and results in us to aim for higher standards in our ‘real lives.’

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Aiming high
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‘The Greatest’ justifying his nickname. Vs. Sonny Liston

For The One-Off Emotional Experiences

The great Michael Jordan said that his sport, “Has been the site of intense pain and the most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction.” As a passionate Arsenal Fan, underneath the crest on my club shirt, my heart bears an everlasting scar from the Champions League Final loss in 2006. The manner of that defeat sits somewhere between ‘losing a winning lottery ticket’ and ‘death of a family member’ on the hierarchy of emotions. As bleak and cheerless as that tragedy was, so too was the beauty and brilliance of the 2003/04 Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ team that became the first ever to go a season and a half undefeated, winning the league and cup double in the process. Aside from childbirth, being in love, and ultimately death, I see sport as unrivalled in being able to cause the deepest intensity of every type of human emotion.

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The joy and anticipation of 200,000 Dutch fans gathered in Amsterdam’s Museumplein for the final of the 2010 World Cup. (I was there!)
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The desolated geography mimics the devastated emotions. The Dutch lost 26 minutes into extra time.

In Sport “Impossible Is Nothing”

It’s no coincidence that the biggest sports brand in the world chose this quote from the athlete known as ‘The Greatest.’ Sport turns sceptics into believers; miracles it seems, can happen. Every once in a while, when the script is going as expected and the certain favourite is winning…. Whoomp! There It Is. It may be a horse literally falling at the final hurdle, an unexpected left hook from a beaten up underdog, or perhaps a world record being broken, but the unbelievable has become reality. It’s this unpredictable characteristic of sport that brings out the child in all of us, and asks “why not?”

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Impossible Is Nothing

It Provides Mind-Body Stimulation

The impression of sports and those involved is evolving. Undeniably they will always remain physical disciplines, but in the modern world even the most detached supporters recognise the importance of sports mental aspects. The further an individual ascends from amateur to world-class, the more their sport becomes about the mind and body working as one and less about pure brawn. It’s not just the necessary increase in focus and being ‘pumped up’, but also in planning tactics, analysing footage, evaluating technique, and examining training principles etc. Technological advances mean that the sporting environment has become a field for scientists (quite literally.) The exciting thing about this is, it’s only going to get better, both for athlete and supporter alike.

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Looking beneath the metal and the muscle

 Sport Appeals To Our Inner Adrenaline Junkie

As inherent as competition is to our natural psyche, so to is the thrill of flirting with danger. Even though we understand gravity, inertia, and the force of wind, we still peer over the edge of a steep rock-face and feel the adrenaline rush. Dedicating your life to being a champion by becoming quicker, bigger, etc can prove to be a high-risk strategy. Racing drivers, boxers, and bobsledders are examples of individuals who must ‘go over the edge’ to ‘get an edge.’ As a result of this intense boundary-pushing comes the inevitably distressful sight of many that go too far, an occurrence which unfortunately is becoming more and more common as the risk/reward balance increases. As fans we accompany the athlete in the emotional tease of leaning forward over the cliff edge, however though sometimes the athlete pays the ultimate price, we who only watch are continually drawn back to the edge.

Wingsuit Base-Jumping in China
Wingsuit Base-Jumping in China
"Victory is won not in miles but in inches"
“Victory is won not in miles but in inches.” – In Moto GP the margins are miniscule

Sport offers a permanent place in history

“I was there, I saw it happen.” Nearly everyone can count themselves fortunate enough to have been witness to a significant sporting episode. Whether you were ringside in 1974 for the Ali vs. Foreman ‘Rumble in The Jungle’ or you listened to Steve Redgrave win his 1st of 5 gold medals on a wireless radio in 1984, you have a claim to being a part of that history. At the exact once-in-a-lifetime moment where new history was being written, you were there experiencing it and aiding in the collective energy. Not only do the memories of the rarest and greatest sporting moments that we witness at the time never fade, the fact we were part of the whole cumulative affair even carries a certain weight to those who will only hear about it later.

India's fans watch a live TV broadcast of their Cricket World Cup semi-final match against Australia, inside a barber shop in New Delhi
India’s fans watch a live TV broadcast of their Cricket World Cup semi-final match against Australia, inside a barber shop in New Delhi
90,000 gathered at Boyle’s Thirty Acres in Jersey City to watch the first million dollar gate in the history of boxing.
90,000 gather in Jersey City to watch Jack Dempsey in the first million dollar gate in the history of boxing.
Sport Feeds Our Natural,  Hereditary Competitor
 
There are those that consider the combative and ambitious motives within us as simply primitive aggression which should be suppressed. I feel however that competition is a normal and natural way of life, and when conducted properly, brings out the best aspects of human nature, not the worst. The two connected virtues that ought to, and do, distinguish athletic competition from the dog-eat-dog nature of the animal world, are honour and respect. An Individual who is blessed with natural talented (in sport or any other field), that doesn’t strive for maximum potential, misses the mark.
Mutual respect between two of the greatest Tennis players of all time
Mutual respect between Federer and Nadal. Rivals on the court, friends off of it.

After a quick glance back over the points above, it seems only too obvious that the reason we love sports is because they engage us on every level of being human: physically, mentally, emotionally, (and if souls exist then probably them too.) This piece may be a selfish effort to rationalise my own obsession; as if I needed to list reasons for feelings that come naturally. But then I remember the tens of thousands who queue in all conditions just for tickets to football matches that are only 90 minutes long, or a boxing bout that could be over within 10 seconds. Then there’s the mobs of kids who clamber over anything in front of them just to get the star player’s autograph. Or the stadiums quite literally rocking under the mass of foot-stomping hysteria….

…. It’s then I know I’m not alone.

Stu

Many nations across multiple sports all share their passion for sport
Many nations across multiple sports all share their passion for sport
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