All through my adolescence to my early twenties, I barely watched more than a few plays of any sport. To me, they were obscure and distant things. Listening to people discuss sports was akin to school: a lot of numbers and terms I didn’t understand and rules I couldn’t follow. I tuned it out. Only recently did I discover a way into liking sports. I discovered their beauty.
Sports are beautiful, and yet the aesthetic charms are barely spoken of. Instead, we talk on and on of stats and scores and season wins. To me, that makes sports seem more like business, and ESPN is the Fox News of sports.
What’s beautiful about sports? The movement for one. As a spectator, you can sit back at a distance and just watch this people move. Despite what any elitists might think, watching a good game rivals a good ballet, a good orchestra, or a good play. Sports, like the fine arts just mentioned, are all about hitting marks, following cues, and keeping the audience’ attention. What’s more, sports have a visceral aspect that the fine arts often lack, with a few exceptions (the work of David Mamet comes to mind).
I’ve decided that, as far as I’m concerned, sports are an art. Like artists, athletes have to learn the basics and fundaments of their profession, then learn to assert a singular identity and come to break from conventions.
The basketball finals this year were a fine piece of art. Watching two teams so closely matched was fantastic. The Mavericks won because of their artistry. They played almost flawlessly as a team, synched together like an orchestra. The Miami Heat were also good, but I wasn’t seeing that wholeness, that symmetry. Dwayne Wade (my favorite player now), Chris Bosh, and Lebron James were all over the place, succeeding, breaking expectations, but not together. They were picking up each other’s slack when they should have been moving as one.
What mars the beauty of sports? Fouling for one. As I mentioned before, the beauty for me is in the uninterrupted motion of the game, the sort of clockwork precision it has. Fouls stop the game; they’re a schism in the flow of things. The other thing that devalues sports much more is cheating. Finding out your favorite athlete is cheating is like finding out your favorite movie is derivative of other, better movies, or that your favorite painting in a museum is a fraud. If the allegations for Lance Armstrong’s doping are proved, what an ugly day it will be for sports indeed.