For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Amateurs and Professionals

G.K. Chesterton's name has popped up in some news articles lately, with talk of a cause being opened for his beatification. Several people have called him a prophet, in the sense that his writings contained the warnings against and predictions of what we have become. Since the winter sporting season is about to begin, here is the splendid essay Logic and Lawn Tennis by Chesterton. As it turns out, it was as prophetic as anything he wrote and cuts right across the cult of sport that seems to get sillier and crasser every year.

Although he doesn't tackle this directly in the essay, isn't the term "professional sport" an oxymoron?

In case anyone thinks that popular sport, with vast audiences and intense fanatical support cannot exist in the amateur world, then do visit Ireland to watch Gaelic football, still a strictly amateur sport. There is an annual tournament at county level, the final of which is probably the single biggest sporting event in the year, attended by almost 100,000 partisan supporters cheering on their county. Only Ireland's Six Nations rugby games have anywhere near this following. I don't really know how the skill levels compare, as I don't watch it and couldn't tell even if I did, but I think that it isn't unusual for Gaelic footballers to make the move to "soccer", as they call it, at professional level.

It is difficult to pick a line from Chesterton's essay to lure the reader in, because every line is quotable. Of scholastic philosophers, he writes: "And they might even have suggested, what so many journalists seem to forget, the paradoxical possibility that Tennis was made for Man and not Man for Tennis."

1 comment:

  1. All true, though it is worth noting that the devotion to Gaelic games is, at least in part, an expression of political nationalism, often of the extreme and ugly variety. Hence the official and widespread celebration of violence, sectarianism and murder by the GAA.

    Of course the link between sport and distasteful politics is not to unique to the GAA - there was the problem of the far-right and hooliganism in British football, and Italian football has had some unpleasant episodes. The GAA is perhaps unusual in seeming to promote rather than discourage this sort of stuff.

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