Sunday, October 7, 2007

Professional 'Sport'

Minutes away from the first serious game for the All Blacks in this Rugby World Cup, I am seated in front of the television full of both tension and ambivalence. I will be watching the game, and in fact watched their first game, but each time I wonder whether I should be. Why? Because 30+ men turning up to work isn't sport, and I delude myself to think I share in their success.

Professionalism may have stopped the flow of players from union to league, but I reckon it will prove to undermine the All Blacks in the long term. They are no longer the normal men who prove to be different by the commitment and skill they demonstrate in their 'spare' time. Neither is there continuity between them and the schoolboys and team players; professionalism draws a vast distinction in terms of material rewards, life structure (fulltime training etc) and consequent quality of play. Young players may be lured by the 'big time', but will they identify with the All Blacks in the same way?

Will kiwis as a whole identify? [Not that my flatmate is showing any lack of identity as the French team have just beaten 'us'.] Do the grassroots players, particularly those past the change of going pro, identify with their playing companions who get paid for it?

I have further concerns about how hard we use the bodies of sportspeople. Similar questions have been raised elsewhere - can people be said to be exploited by actions they choose to engage in? How much do they realise the health issues they buy into? How much are they dehumanised and treated as cattle by the team management trying to maximise success? (Not to mention how much sportsmanship may be suppressed.)

So far, I haven't been able to stop watching.

For the record, it was a cracker of a game.

No comments: