The Dialectics of Sport

The central contradiction at the heart of sport is obvious enough. It is the human dialectic; ruthlessly individualistic, tribal and competitive on the one hand, sublimely humanistic and socially co-operative on the other. Sport relentlessly reflects both poles. Today sport is nothing but a dirty commodity where clubs and athletes are bought and sold like prize cattle. Cheating, match fixing, drug taking, ruthless commercialism and of course the ugly local tribalism and national triumphalism are all the daily fare of the sporting world. Yet almost bizarrely, sport simultaneously offers the opportunity of individual personal growth, local community cohesion and on the international stage, improved global harmony. At least we like to tell ourselves it is capable of pursuing such noble goals. Mixed amongst the blind human urge to conquer, comes strange pulses of altruism and genuine internationalism. And in true dialectical fashion, even when the basest of human motives are in full flow, the end result can still somehow serve to produce something quite different: to actually enhance human welfare and, if you will forgive the lapse into metaphysics, the human spirit.

The Olympic Movement is perhaps the very best example of this dialectical interplay of opposites whereby, despite all the human machinations of individual selfishness, corporate greed, institutional corruption and national hubris, something rather better still manages to emerge. Despite every conceivable corruption, the Olympics has this almost magical power to momentarily lift us out of our tribal mentality and see, albeit briefly, humans as a single tribe with a common purpose.  

Mass self-delusion on a global scale? Probably. Yet if enough people latch on to an idea for long enough and if that idea coincides with their own material needs, that big idea can, in fact, become a material force in itself.  From local sport to global sport. From global sport to global consciousness. From global consciousness to a world without tribes. The sporting dialectic marches on!   

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