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."