Subject: Bull-fighting as a dying sport? (Re: Soccer as a dying sport? + Re: second world sport?)
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 14:44:09 -0600
From: (Stig Oppedal)

Answers: "illiterally" and "hopefully", but "metaphorically, never". 

This leads to the next question, of even greater importance: what is the
second world sport?

Factors such as filter disturbance, participant -> spectator potential,
and Abbot and Costelloís "Whoís on first" routine will of course
determine the objective answer, but they lie outside my particular
window of expertise, sitting on the ledge, freezing. I ignore them.

GRIDIRON FOOTBALL: if a week is a long time in politics, itís at least a
quarter and a half in football. Does this make for an exciting sport?
Iíd answer "yes", except that itís a trick question - football is not a
sport. "Football is business, and thatís all it is. The fans donít
understand that." - Seattle linebacker, January 1996. The NFL is the
ideal to which all the other biz corps aspire. 

A quick structuralist analysis of the typical traits of football and
other American sports is interesting:
- the abrupt start-stop action resembles a commercial/video/news flash
- players are controlled by an authoritarian, centralized regime 
- uniformity, conformity, sacrifice and other military virtues are
- spectators are willingly manipulated 
- the franchise owner is the natural recipient of the trophy (awarded
for top market position) 
- words, once sacred, are reduced to meaningless entities (eg the "New
Orleans Mormons")
- media acquiescence: TV as vertically integrated marketing unit,
tabloid dope-pushers selling suffixes, etc

Any similarity to institutions or societies, living or comatose, is
purely coincidental.

BASKETBALL: a state of permanent change. Everything is EXCITING and
CRUCIAL and IN-YOUR-FACE and of no lasting importance. Basketball is
like a soap opera: Mike impresses the board with projected record
numbers for the first fiscal quarter, Denise is on the rebound and gets
mixed up with Chuck (we know itís gonna end in tears), Toni goes for an
easy lay , Mike reverts to stealing, Olly's case gets thrown of court,
Chuck rejects Denise, someone takes a desperate shot... and we fade out
to a commercial break. All that in the first few minutes! Whew! So,
what's happening on "As The World Turns"?

BASEBALL: a single game is to a season as a yawn is to a dream. Nine
innings filled with one sales pitch after the other, ad infinitum.
Conveniently for the statmongers, the fundamental confrontation between
batter and pitcher can be represented as a digital model, eg runners on
2nd and 3rd (110), two out (10), a count of three (11) and one (01) =
110101101. Within this digital framework there are percentages and
averages to be reckoned with, i.e. the rational and the irrational as a
metaphor for math. Thereís a reason itís called "Americaís national
pastime" rather than "Americaís national sport".
Riddle me this, batmen: if the outfield watches the infield keep an eye
on the runner, who watches the watchers? Answer: the usher. You won't
find the nostalgic heart of baseball at the new multiplex ballpark, but
down at the movie theater watching "Eight Men Out", "Bull Durham", "The
Bad News Bears" - the list goes on. As does the distance in time.

CRICKET: the Masonic handshake of the Commonwealth. 

RUGBY: repressed Victorian fantasy of a medieval revolt. The scrum as a
static, introspective, primitive village, the forwards as oppressed
serfs, the scrum-half as the rabble rouser who dissolves the feudal
bonds. The focus remains local and backwards, even when the social order
breaks down, with little vision and recognition of the outside world
limited to desperate kicks down field (often followed by a mad dash
after the "Holy Grail").

Only the designated "penalty-taker" rises above this mass of grunting
peasants, asserting his individuality with the vision to see the world
as it really is. Through the ritual of altering leaden tries (3 pts)
into golden goals (5 pts), this subversive alchemist-type originally
perverted the Holy Trinity into the Satanic pentangle, subtly reflecting
Victorian depravity. Needless to say, millenarian tendencies have
resulted in a new 5/7 points spilt, i.e. the "conversion" of a sinful
world to a divine heaven. 

Which is one way of saying that anything constructed can be

ICE HOCKEY: the cut-throat attitude, dynamic counter-attacks, and
"click-clack" team work has inspired many political proverbs ("Follow
the play, not the puck" - A. Netter. "Politics is the continuation of
hockey through other means" - von Eisewitz. "Punch swiftly and carry a
big stick" - Bruisevelt.). Exciting as ice hockey is, Storm Troopers 
# 24, 25 and 26 have a tendency to look the same, and after a while the
action turns dťjŗ vu. Exciting as ice hockey is, Storm Troopers # 24, 25
and 26 have a tendency to look the same, and after a while the action
turns dťjŗ vu.

HANDBALL: if basketball is a soap opera, then handball is a non-variety
show. There are all of three variations in the action: static
attack/defense formation, counter-attack through the midfield vacuum,
and penalty throw. Dull, dull, dull.

VOLLEYBALL: makes handball look varied.

TENNIS: little more than an algorithm demonstration.

    IF DoubleFault THEN ByzantinePointSystem (ReturnersPoint)
    ELSE IF Ace THEN ByzantinePointSystem (ServersPoint)
    ELSE IF ClayCourt THEN BaselineBorathon 
    ELSE FewSecondsOfVolleying
  UNTIL someone understands ByzantinePointSystem

For a traditional sport that was played way back in the court of Nat
"King" Cole, tennis has a remarkably low nostalgia factor. One reason is
that it, unlike baseball or cricket, is non-seasonal. More important is
that the repetitive ritual itself  is almost irrelevant to tennisís
raison dí Ítre, the humiliation of the opponentís ego; hardly the
grounds for wistfulness and sentimentality.

GOLF: the extravagant waste of time (= money) as status symbol.
Underlining that a manís fundamental worth is economic, PGA golfers are
officially ranked by their prize money.

SUMO WRESTLING: interesting as a sociological phenomenon; a comparative
study with sea elephant mating rituals could prove fruitful.

BOXING: the noble art of self-promotion, brought to you by Baskin
Limelight 31 Favors for a title bout. So where's the fascination in
watching two black guys (heavyweight division) or two Hispanics
(middleweight division) beat each other up, or seeing anyone beat the
crap out of the great white dope (any weight division)? Answer: down in
the downtrodden psych of the lucky punch. The masochistic 12th round
comeback. The tax evasion-like feint. The Homeric grandeur... ruined by
the inflation, the irrelevance, the boredom, the fix, the deaths.

But are two words in any language more poetic, more grandiose, more
terrible than "Muhammad Ali"? I see only one contender: "cavalleria

MOTOR SPORTS: the never-ending battle of man and remote control. ferrari
hunk of junk no. 1 versus chanel metal no. 5. who will win? vroom vroom
vroom. vroom vroom vroom. pit stop in Marlboro Country. vroom vroom
vroom. vroom vroom vro-- crash! replay! reverse angle replay! overhead
replay! replay replay! wave the greenback flag. vroom vroom vroom. vroom
vroom vroom. finish line: Corporate Star wins by a length, closely
followed by Cig Exec!

ATHLETICS +: the non-autonomous sports. The action is irrelevant to the
information, and our reactions are based largely on the latter: times,
lengths, world records, status of the event, stage of the competition.
Thereís a strong element of "seen one, seen Ďem all", like hearing fifty
violinists in succession play the opening three minutes of Eine kleine

Letís say you find yourself (by accident, presumably) watching
weightlifting. What you see is an endless procession of grunting, obtuse
East Europeans with sideburns lifting weights over their heads; how
much, and why, is impossible to determine. If itís a 100-kg lift in the
Pan-Slavic championship, youíd change channels; if itís 400-kg in the
Olympics, youíd be impressed (and shudder at the side effects that
steroid abuse inevitably causes). Itís not what you see thatís
important, itís what youíre told.

SUMMER OLYMPICS: an exciting 10-second sprint... and then thereís the
other 1000 or so medals to hand out. Snooze.

WINTER OLYMPICS: an exciting 14-sport festival! Big enough to merit
attention, small enough to retain it. Nordic skiing is beautiful in
itself, and after a four-year restitution we once again immerse
ourselves in the delights of biathlon, speed-skating, and ice hockey!

What can I say? A semi-final in ladies curling between Sweden and Denmark
sounds _thrilling_ to me. Just imagine: halfway through the Winter Olympics,
Denmark - who have never won anything in Winter Olympic history - may go ahead
of Sweden in the medal count, while Norway go joint top on the all-time table.
The Winter Olympics rule.

To sum up my answers on the SAT verbal abuse section:

  sport = empty language

  fanhood = rhapsody rumble

  Babe Ruth : Americana  <=>  Birger Ruud : det rotnorske