Earlier in the semester, we read and discussed Louis Menand’s article “Live and Learn” which talked about the different purposes of college. He proposed several theories about why we attend college. The first was that we are here to be sorted by intelligence and talents, and this process will weed us into our careers. The second theory is that we are in college to develop skills and become “informed citizens” through a higher education.
I recently attended the Michigan basketball game against Syracuse, where the Wolverines pulled out a great win. I also went to one of my former high school’s football games earlier in the semester. Watching both of these events got me asking a similar question as the one Menand asks.
What is the real purpose of sports? Is it purely for the love of the game? Or is it for the spectators and the money that being an athlete can provide?
In my opinion, there really isn’t and accurate way to answer that question. From watching the two events I went to, though, I feel different levels of competition create a different purpose of play.
At the high school game, the stakes were obviously much less. Though there was a decently large crowd for a high school football game, the level of viewing wasn’t anywhere near that of the Michigan game. The spectators of a sport, in my opinion, change the seriousness of the game tremendously. Michigan basketball players feel the pressure to preform at a high level, because if not, they are letting so many people down.
While high schoolers are still taking their games very seriously, I think that the pressure of the college athletics makes players treat athletics with much less of a “playful” attitude. In my opinion, college players view their sport as less of a game and more of an obligation. Because of this, I would suggest that Huizinga’s “magic circle” starts to disappear at the higher levels of play. The magic circle is completely outside of reality, but I don’t think Michigan basketball players play their games that way. Concerns about keeping their scholarships and possibly getting to the NBA makes their games much more real than at the high school level.
Derek Jeter made his retirement at the end of this past baseball season. When he announced his retirement, he stated that he was quitting baseball because it was finally “becoming a job”. To me, this makes Derek a truly special athlete, because until that point of his career he was playing baseball purely for the love of the game.
After watching the two events while considering what I’ve learned from this class, it is clear to me that athlete’s intentions for play changes as the level of competition increases. I think it takes a truly special player to play at a professional or even collegiate level simply for the “love” of the game.