17 ene. 2012


While I am not a sports fan per se, I totally get why people love sports.

There is an aesthetic appeal, a beauty and elegance of movement. The physicality of sports relates to that of the performing arts, dance, music, theater, poetry, and even the physicality of painting and sculpture.

Another source of appeal is intellectual, if you can call it that. The analytical breaking down of matchups. To speculate on whether Athens or Sparta is going to be the dominant power in the next few decades is not too different from debating the relative chances of the Niners and the Patriots.

The appeal to group identities, to imagined communities, is also strong. This, to me, is the least appealing aspect of sports, but I do understand the power here.

Now aesthetic uselessness and purity, group allegiance, and a physical competition that is basically a simulacrum of warfare, make up a powerful and dangerous combination. The aestheticization of ritualized violence.

Here's what Williams had to say about it:

The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them—

all the exciting detail
of the chase

and the escape, the error
the flash of genius—

all to no end save beauty
the eternal—

So in detail they, the crowd,
are beautiful

for this
to be warned against

saluted and defied—
It is alive, venomous

it smiles grimly
its words cut—

The flashy female with her
mother, gets it—

The Jew gets it straight— it
is deadly, terrifying—

It is the Inquisition, the

It is beauty itself
that lives

day by day in them

This is
the power of their faces

It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is

cheering, the crowd is laughing
in detail

permanently, seriously
without thought

2 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...

What a great poem that is. "Detail" indeed.

Another appeal is that of dramatic participatory identification -- I can remember following the Red Sox on the radio one long summer, and sharing vicariously in a four-day struggle to overcome the Texas Rangers.

Do you know whether HD got the "couplets" of Trilogy from Williams? Or an independent arrival at the device?

Jordan dijo...

The word is adrenaline. Group identification, aesthetics, yes, those are part of it -- but what I see most when I watch sports is people reacting super-quickly and -surely to things and people flying at them at speeds I can barely register. When athletes react well it's exhilarating for the spectators. And when they goof badly enough to make the blooper reel, I feel that physically too. Probably a mirror neuron thing?

Williams's poem is great, and it anticipates Canetti's Crowds and Power by decades. But I think he's much more interested in the effect than the cause.