Think about the sporting calendar: F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne, Men’s AFL & NRL Football season starting, Women’s AFL on the horizon. Not to mention the Paris World Cup Rugby and Olympics around the corner. There is a smorgasbord of sport that reflects the changing face of sport and raises the question, “Is sport just entertainment?”
Do we watch sport for the same reason we watch the latest Marvel movie or Netflix series? Is sport just showtime to entertain us? There seems to be two distinctive groups of spectators.
Hardcore vs entertainment
Firstly, the hardcore sports fan that loves their sport. They watch because they follow the sport and love the technical aspects of the game. They know the player’s names, their statistics and the strategies of the sport.
Secondly, there are the spectators after the experience and a souvenir T-shirt. They watch the unusual events on the field, love the spectacle and buy a plush toy as part of the experience. They head home full of great stories of the day and tick it off their bucket list.
Both are entitled to be there. Both enjoy the event. Both are needed for the sport. However, I believe there is a transition with more of the later in modern sports. This is great for events such as the F1 and Commonwealth Games. It shows the hardcore fan how entertaining their sport can be to “outsiders.” It also brings an awareness of the athlete’s skills and injects funds into the sport.
However, it also reflects a shift in our culture that is more consumer-based: a desire to be entertained and desire to make a buck from that event. In addition, this shift is seen in many other aspects of our society. Our churches offer services to ‘consumers’, not worshippers, who choose their church as they do a café (e.g. a “good vibe,” good coffee, people similar to themselves).
I think we would laugh at a politician today that said, “Ask not what this country (or church or sport) can do for you, but what you can do for this country.” There is a shift from servicing, to demanding to be served.
That may be way too deep an insight from watching someone in a bikini play beach volleyball but it is worth a conversation with your friends. It may not be the death of sport but there is a shift that reflects sport as entertainment.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html