Everyone loves to play games. Playing games has been embedded in our lives since day 1. It is the most primary and instinctive part of our life and frankly it takes on different meanings for different people. In the Funeral Games in Homers Iliad, playing games was a way to satisfy the gods, today people join IM Leagues to play around with their friends and have a good time. Even though everyone’s intentions are different, there is one aspect of playing games and sports that holds true; it brings out a different person in all of us.
In the reading Homo Ludens, Huizinga defined play as being time and location specific, meaning all games are played on a field with boundaries and rules. He said that once people step onto this field they are no longer in real life. Playing sports transcends people into a different realm where nothing else matters but they are doing. He says “the sacred performance is more than an actualization in appearance only, a sham reality; it is also more than symbolical actualization – it is a mystical one”. I certainly agree with the fact that sports and games bring out a different side of us, but I also think that sports bring out this side in those who watch it as well. Lets take Michigan for example, if you go to hockey game in the Yost arena the boundaries are clearly marked and the fans are separated from the game play with boards. There is a literal separation between the two, however the fans in their seats are nonetheless a part of the game. When Michigan scores a goal you can hear the crowd roar and chant the goalies name followed by the words “Its all your fault! Its all your fault!” trying to break his mental game. This obviously isn’t only a Michigan thing, but a concept in sports everywhere. This also isn’t only true in todays society, but has been for a very long time. For instance, Maurice Richard (the greatest Montreal hockey player of all time) received a suspension from the NHL Commissioner that lasted through the playoffs. Now lets take a step back and think what this means; one man is not allowed to play a game for three weeks. However in reality it is a much bigger deal. The Montreal public responded with the second biggest riot in all of Montreal’s history, second only to the burning of the parliament building. The cities damages were through the roof and the fans were beside themselves, all for one player. In Take Time For Paradise, Giamatti justifies this when he says, “If there is truly a religious quality to sport, then, it lies first in the intensity of devotion brought by the true believer, or fan”. He continues to say that he believes sports can be viewed as a kind of debased religion and that from sports we retain all of the most intense feelings brought on by religion, but without the commitment and rules to religion.
Sports have become such a large market in society that players are getting compensated ridiculous amounts of money to play in professional leagues. The reason for this of course is because there’s a market for it; there are enough fans that love watching Sunday football or the NHL. Individuals find pleasure from watching these games and associate some sort of connection to their team that’s deeply rooted within. While live television has taken a huge hit from the Internet, the one incredibly successful television channel are those dedicated to sports. That is because there is no replacement for live sports. Nobody wants to rewatch the game or hear about it, they want to live the excitement. Recently, Rogers even signed a $5.2 billion deal with the NHL which is the largest they have ever seen because they know that sports is one of the only emerging and successful markets in television. Players getting paid millions of dollars and companies making billion dollar deals are all a result of our crazy fandom and the market we create for sports.
It’s incredible how much value we assign to sports. In reality soccer is just kicking a ball around into a net, but when that ball goes in the crowd goes wild. This ongoing question of sports and games and how they are so popular comes back to the individual. Giamatti believes that we assign certain intrinsic values to sports: having played it, it reminds someone of when they were young, a memory with your parents etc. Everyone has a different connection to sports, however when the games on we all root for the same team and we all unite under one flag and join together to spark that crazy fandom.