Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Society and Sports

For most families, at least within America, sports are a weekly tradition, whether it is football, basketball, hockey, baseball, etc. It seems to be such a common place aspect of our lives that people often do not devote time to think about the impact that sports can make on society. Yet it does have a role in society and especially nation building, a fact that government leaders are beginning to understand more and more.

Sports can serve to build nationality. In polls it has been seen that nations without strong unified identities often come together under one banner during times of intense sporting events. One example would be Nigeria where often times the identity of being "Nigerian" is not necessarily the first identity for the people, however, when the Nigerian football (soccer) team reaches the finals its hard to find anyone who is not Nigerian. People turn out to support their teams, people accept one identity to come together around one event. Even closer to home many UW students identify as being "Badgers" as one of their predominant identities. Sports enable people with no other common ground to find something they can mutually discuss, and can enable a sense of community for the audience and the team.

To build up a nation with no unified identity some organizations have taken to starting sport teams to show people from different backgrounds that the "other" is no different from them. Through sports one is also able to get people to work together and build a partnership with each other. In theory, when one participates in a sport one acts for the greater good of the team. By using sports people are able to learn to bridge the differences between themselves and others and, once again, find common ground where they are potentially able to engage in honest, sincere dialogue with each other where they could not previously have.

Within this framework of sports, maybe the solution to creating greater student activism on campus lies within sports. Badger games are notoriously popular, and engaging those students to somehow work toward one cause (for example, getting out the vote, going green, etc) would be a force to be reckoned with. Yet, when one thinks about the concept of sports in "the real world" one questions whether or not sports can actually be that powerful of a force. Yes, it does create common ground, yes it is an event which people can rally around but do its effects expand beyond just the sporting event? Specifically with Badger games, students have their habits already set up: they wake up early, they get ready for the game, they attend the game, and then it ends. The unity of the games does not seem to last beyond just the game itself. One must ask then, is it effective? Can sports change the world? Can they help us build a nation?

It's hard to say, in theory it seems like such a good idea. It is also theoretically sound, but when it is applied do its effects end at the end of the match? How long term are the effects?

1 comment:

MAGICMAN13 said...

I think that your idea of sports having a effect on a nation is a wonderful thought, but I do no think that sports will ever help unite a country or raise awareness of political issues. The majority of sport fans attend sporting events to forget about those worries. At the Olypics this past summer it was clear that most athletes felt the same way. Athletes were advised to keep political statements out of the games and most athletes felt it did the games good to keep those statements out. I think that if sporting events were to be used as a tool to promote political issues fewer people would enjoy and them and no one would be able to escape the issues they hear about so often.