The Ossification of Sport

In the beginning a few people got together with a stick and a ball, or maybe just a ball or something else, to have some fun. Some of them tried to get the ball to one particular spot and the others tried to get it to a different spot. Some onlookers thought it was quite enjoyable to watch. How good it was to take a break from the other demands of the day in this way!

A game at the Richmond Paddock in the 1860s. A pavilion at the MCG is on the left in the background. (A wood engraving made by Robert Bruce on 27 July 1866.) From WikiPedia.

Then something changed somewhere along the passage of time. Somehow winning the game became All Important.

Now, because winning the game was what it was all about, a strong sensitivity developed around whether the other person/team was getting an unfair advantage that diminished your ability to win. Rules began to be developed, and then expanded. More and more rules emerged governing and dictating what was considered to be “fair”. This then required a governing body so that the rules could be enforced and that tribunals could decide what happened when the rules were broken. The sense of play diminished and any new technology had to be carefully examined and made available to everyone before it could be included. Any changes to the game resisted unless there was a very good case made in case it might give someone else an unfair advantage.

Because winning was the most important thing, the players had to train more and more until it became a full time endeavour. Dedicated trainers were required. The spectators could no longer just enjoy the play, they had to choose sides and only support that side. The players began to depend on that support. It was no longer enough to enjoy the play in it’s own right, because Winning Is Everything.

It has now become Oh So Serious.

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