Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Sport and Spectators

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Aug 21, 2008

Originally posted on Half an Hour, August 21, 2008.

Responding to Dave Pollard, who writes,
From now on, every time I am tempted to watch a "spectator sport", or a mass media information or entertainment production, I am going to stop myself and ask: What could I be doing instead that is more collaborative, and more participative, and take myself off the sidelines and out of the chair and into action, doing something, cooperatively, with others.
Um. No.

Two short stories.

1. I was in Memphis about a month ago. The Redbirds (local triple-A baseball team) were playing in their nice new downtown stadium. I went three nights in a row.

It was perfection. I had a seat on the first base side, even with home plate, about 6 rows in. The games proceeded at their pace, the crowd came in and cheered and chatted, the vendors sold me some hot nuts and a beer or Coke, and I simply appreciated the act, the art, of the sort. Watching Stansberry stroke a double down the left field line is a thing of beauty.

2. It's late at night. I'm listening to the Blue Jays game on the radio. They're playing in Detroit and there's a rain delay. The announcers come on, they update the other scores around the rest of the league, talk a bit about the current game, and then engage in a conversation on the game itself, some proposed rule changes, whether they should be undertaken, who they would favour, that sort of thing. Arcania.

And at the end of the conversation, a good ten of fifteen minutes later, they wrapped up, and the announcer said, "I hope you enjoyed that." And I realized, I had enjoyed that, not because of the topic, necessarily, but because it was simply high quality conversation - two knowledgable people having a friendly discussion about something that interested them.

So I don't think *my* enjoyment of sports, at least, has anything to do with the expertise or the affinity (and certainly very little to do with the competition).

I think, for me, sport is like art. I appreciate the beauty, the artistry, the spectacle, the grace. And whether this is expressed in the game itself, the setting, or the coverage, it's all the same to me - and actually, the totality of this is what really brings it together.

When I am sitting on a perfect summer evening watching a game and that little voice says, "What could I be doing instead that is more collaborative, and more participative," I have learned to say, "nothing."

Because, you know, it (life, and all that) is not about being "more collaborative, and more participative." It's about those moments of beauty, when the lead-off hitter strokes a double down the left field line, the runner scores from first in a cloud of dust, and this event, unknown to all of us in the second inning, will be what decides the issue in a 1-0 game.

The spectator is what makes any of this worth doing at all.

Not seeing that is, in an important way, not to see.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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