5.24.2017

Too Short for a Blog Post, Too Long for a Tweet LXXIII

Here's an excerpt from a book I recently read, "But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past," by Chuck Klosterman:



As part of their investigation, the Radiolab staff contacted a cross-section of youth football coaches and asked why this is happening. The producers mildly scoffed at the coaches’ answers, all of which were eerily similar: video games. “The bottom line is that—today—if the kid doesn’t like the score, he just hits restart. He starts the game over.” This is a quote from a youth coach in Louisiana, but it was mirrored by almost every coach Radiolab encountered. On the surface, it seemed like the reactionary complaint of a Luddite. But sometimes the reactionaries are right. It’s wholly possible that the nature of electronic gaming has instilled an expectation of success in young people that makes physical sports less desirable. There’s also the possibility that video games are more inclusive, that they give the child more control, and that they’re simply easier for kids who lack natural physical gifts. All of which point to an incontestable conclusion: Compared to traditional athletics, video game culture is much closer to the (allegedly) enlightened world we (supposedly) want to inhabit. 

Should physical differences matter more than intellectual differences? Should the ability to intimidate another person be rewarded? Is it acceptable to scream at a person in order to shape his behavior? Should masculinity, in any context, be prioritized? The growing consensus regarding all of these questions is no. Yet these are ingrained aspects of competitive sports, all the way back to Sparta. A key reason college football came into existence in the late nineteenth century was that veterans who’d fought in the Civil War feared the next generation of men would be soft and ill prepared for the building of a republic (“We gotta give these boys something to do,” these veterans believed. “Hell, they’ll probably go through life without killing anyone!”). We inject sports with meaning because they are supposed to mean something. So what happens when the things they signify are no longer desirable traits? It would mean the only value sports offer is their value as an aerobic entertainment commodity. And that would make it the equivalent of a fad, with the inherently finite life span all fads possess.
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