Sports are fake. Yes, they exist. Sport boys and girls are real people and they do the sport ball on real fields and real courts. The games are real. The teams are real. The rules are real.
The strike zone is fake, but that’s another story. (OK, maybe the strike zone is real, but it kind of seems fluid depending on the umpire and also it’s invisible but so is God and we could argue over whether he — or she — is real, but what am I talking about?)
The money earned by athletes is real and abundant. Sports exist, that is true, but the conflict in each game is fake.
The definition of a game is “a contrived conflict for the sake of entertainment.”
In Monopoly, ending the game with the most properties or money or however you win Monopoly — I’ve never actually finished a game, someone always flips the board — doesn’t give you that money. It gives you only a fleeting feeling of pride and a few ruined friendships.
This is starting to sound like one of those trippy, dippy, hippie things where someone says “Everything’s fake and constructed by society.” Yeah, lots of things are constructed by society. Marriage, gender, sports, food, people, earlobes… maybe I’m doing this wrong. The point is, no one needs to get a ball in that goal.
Games like football, rugby, soccer, hockey and basketball resemble war, in which an offensive side attempts to advance into the opponent’s territory while the opponent’s defense attempts to stop them. In games like this, however, there is no death (hopefully) and there are no actual military stakes (usually)and there is no outcome other than the value we have assigned to victory. The conflict is contrived and so are the stakes.
Winners get a necklace with some precious metal (or a synthetic version of that metal) or a shiny ring, or a trophy that does literally nothing, but what do those things do for you?
Nothing! They’re just shiny. My dad has three conference championship rings and all they are ever good for is when it was 1950s day at school and we’d wear them as necklaces with our poodle skirts. It’s all fake, dudes.
So if it is all fake, why do sports matter? They matter because of the value we assign to them. A ball in the net means a point or two, but why does that matter? The team at the end of the game with the most points wins, and winning is fun.
The competitions matter because of the stakes imposed from those who organized the games themselves. Perhaps the last person to cross the finish line is a rotten egg, or, in a higher stakes situation, is cut from the team. Perhaps the first one to cross the finish line receives a medal and gets to stand on a podium.
I have a lot of catch phrases — “That ain’t kosher,” and “Huntsville!” and “Good luck boys,” and “Hot, hilarious, humble Hester,” and “Sports!” and “That’s why Jesus invented birth control,” and so on — and I have a lot of wise sayings I oft repeat.
About roller skating, I say, “I’m not the greatest there’s ever been, just the best you’ll ever see.” About life: “You know my stats not my story,” along with “Be shameless and selfless.” One thing that I say quite a bit is, “People don’t care about sports because sports matter, sports matter because people care about them.”
The value that sports have is the ability to influence people. When your team wins a game and you feel that feeling that you can’t describe, that is why sports matter. This is why athletes get millions of dollars: They can do something better than anyone else and the certain thing that they can do is something millions of people want to watch them do.
So yes, sports are fake, but the feelings they make us feel are real.