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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sport as Art or Competition?

There has been an interesting conversation on some blogs and forums as to whether sport is artistic, competitive or both. This may seem like a waste of breath, or as the British use to say, a "Save your breath to cool your porridge" type of topic. However, in light of some of the activities and events in the Olympics, I think this conversation merits attention.

First of all, I did not watch any of the Olympics except the dressage. Sorry, but some of the sports just do not appeal to me. Also, I am living in a mixed dorm and to be honest, the outfits of many of the female athletes embarrassed me. I did not want to watch certain sports because of indecency.

However, I do like some sports and I think the discussion regarding sport as artistic or sport as competitive merits a post for a few reasons, none less than we always, as humans should reflect on our actions, whether play, work or both.

The basic division is this: do the people play to primarily win, or does it not matter who wins? In a sport where the most important thing is winning, more than good sportsmanship and more than the exhibition and use of skills, the sport may be classed as competitive. But, where the skills and technique are foremost, is that art?

Cricket may fall into this category. Except for limited overs, does it really matter who wins as long as the match is interesting, and the skills finely honed? The bowler bowling to the batsman must concentrate on winning, on getting the man out, but the focus on winning is also a focus on skill and hopefully fair play.

Let me compare this to chess, which is a competitive sport. It really matters who wins. The entire game is about out-playing, crushing the opponent with strategy, skill and patience. Indeed, I wonder if one on one, or single person with single person sport is more competitive in nature than team sports.

I am not talking about the fans perception only and I am not writing about sports which are merely tribal warfare in disguise, and I do think that some sports fall into both categories.

The genres mix, but there are definitely different genres and, in a sense, games like cricket and baseball will always be less competitive because they are more random, and the beauty of the game is as remarkable as the performance of the players. One could say that in chess, performance is everything; if one is watching a chess match, one is interested in the players, and the observer expects both of them to be playing with ruthless efficiency. However, in a way, baseball is a more human expression - it is art.

One person said that chess is warfare and that one can learn just as much, spiritually, from competitive activity versus non-competitive activity and that the beauty of competitive activity is that the same skills one takes to a chess match are the same skills one takes to life in general, such as the ability to focus, become goal-oriented, conceptualize and visualize, etc.

Now here is an interesting comment from the forum: Baseball is all about living in the moment, but we can't live in the moment all the time, our brains would turn to mush and that competitive activity is more social, while artistic is more personal, even solitary.

I was astounded by this comment: there is actually very little real teamwork in baseball and cricket. But the person who wrote it plays both games and knows more than I do on these subjects.

But, the art of cricket and the art of baseball, especially now that we have conquered the time of the use of steroids and baseball is now a pitchers' game again, seem to be different than a match at Wimbledon or the World Chess Championship. In cricket, however, do we see different types-some artistic and some competitive, like a difference between a Botham and a Gower in days past?

I may be wrong in my categories, but art and competition may not overlap in all sports. I choose art over competition. I honestly do not always care if a certain country or city wins, but I want to see skill, flare, grace and good sportsmanship.

Tomorrow, I shall write about the Elo rating system, which I think is dubious.

Comments from sportsmen and sportswomen are welcomed. By the way, I consider dressage an artistic sport.


newguy40 said...

Lot's to say on this subject.

My SF Giants lost the All Star game MVP Cabrera because of testosterone use. MLB doesnt care about keeping performance enhancing drugs out of the sport. All they care about is the $. I hate what performance enhancing drugs have done to baseball. If you would think that there has been any substansive crack down on PED's you'd be wrong. MLB has made the testing so easy to udnerstand and get around, it's a joke.

My only experience with sport as Art is watching games 6 and 7 of NHL play off game between the Sharks and Leafs some years back. The Sharks had a couple of old time Soviet players and they were phenomenal skaters, passers and shooters even tho they were in their 40's. Larionov and Makarov. They made Gretzky in his prime look line a amatuer. It was beautiful watching them together.

TRAD DAD said...

Would have thought you would have used pictures of Australian cricketers if you were intent on giving an example of the pinnacle of excellence in sport .
Pax et bonum .
From Our Lady`s Land of the Southern Cross .

Matt R said...

It's interesting then that the IOC awarded medals in art, literature, and poetry for many years.
I don't know...I feel rugby is both artistic and competitive, more so than assoc. football.

c matt said...

I really don't see the art in baseball - if anything, of the team sports it seems most closely related to chess - it is about strategy and matching the pithcer to the hitter, and even each pitch to each batter. A given set of circumstances (two outs, runners on first and second) calls for certain set strategies, much like a counter-counter-counter move in chess.

The more artistic sports seem to me to be basketball, soccer, and ice hockey - each allows a certain freedom of movement and coordination among the players not seen in baseball. American football is in between baseball and the others, it allows a little more freedom, but again plays are set things, everyone has scripted movements, and it is as much about matching the right defensive play against the offense play as it is about physical performance.

Basically, basketball, soccer and hockey are a man's version of ballet.

One Step at a Time said...

I was at the final of the synchronized swimming at the Olympics and I was fascinated by their performances. They certainly were artistic in their movements. It was a joy to watch them. Gymnastics also show the graceful and beautiful movements. So much artistic talent. Unforgettable!

Supertradmum said...

Some interesting thoughts in this blog. Definitely some sports are more competitive, by nature, than others. usually these are sports where individual players, or teams go head to head against each other. In contrast, other sports, like gymnastics, diving, or figure skating, generally are performances by one individual or team at a time. Yes, there is certainly strategy and competition.. but most of it occurs off stage. During the actual moment, it is all about performing the routine as best as possible. from Commentator at 23-08

Supertradmum said...

Please Anonymous, read sign on blog and get a blog name. Thanks