Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sports and Joy

I could not understand what they were saying of course, but when I walked by the Finland team locker room last night they were singing--maybe it was a chant--some victory song. Then I heard players shout exuberantly.  Lots of enthusiasm oozing out of that locker room after the upset victory over the United States.

A recurring theme in my blog has to do with the thrill of the game for fans and for players.  Last weekend in Boston thousands lined the streets to cheer the Red Sox as the team paraded through the city after the World Series victory. Why? Last night twenty somethings from Finland are overjoyed while twenty somethings from the United States are sad after a contest.  Why. The teams both played hard. A goaltender from one team was just spectacular. Why were the US players disappointed and the Fins thrilled?

It is common for people to think that money is what drives people to do what they do.  Well, this theory does not apply in amateur sports and I'd argue not in professional sports either.  The women who are representing their countries this weekend are not becoming rich because of the energy they're expending. Certainly, their parents who are making 12 hour drives and staying in pricey hotels, are not getting rich following their kids.  If you played team sports or followed your kids' who played you know that a freshman volleyball game can make you or your loved ones antsy such that thoughts of the financially meaningless contest dominate your musings for a time.

Even in the professional sports,  players may desire to make as much as they can, but the extra dough they make when they win a championship is not what drives them to douse each other in champagne. Players who want to make more than anyone else are not fighting for the extra salary so they can buy a better car, but because they want to get the strokes of being considered the best.

If you want to identify the most powerful forces in the universe, you need to start at the heart.  It is not money.  It is not even sex, although that tends to move the unmovable as well.  But I would argue that the second most powerful force in the universe is that which makes screaming joyously after a victory in an amateur tournament natural and predictable.  (The first, of course, is whatever it is that makes your heart pound when you hug those you love).  The players may have been shouting in Finnish, but the language really is universal.

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