Empathizing with the Player

If Giammati argues that the spectator feels the same thing that the athlete that he is watching feels, then Michigan football players are feeling a whole lot of pain right now. “The spectator invests his surrogate out there with all his carefree hopes, his aspirations for freedoms, his yearning for transmutation of business into leisure, war into peace, effort into grace. To take the acts of physical toil, lifting, throwing, bending, jumping, pushing, grasping, stretching, running, hoisting, the constantly repeated acts that for millennia meant work, and to bound them in time or by rules or boundaries in a green enclosure surrounded by amphitheater or at least a gallery (thus combining garden in city, a place removed from care, but in this real world) is to replicate the arena of human kinds highest aspiration” (Giamatti, 22). Michigan has the amphitheater, in fact, the largest amphitheater in North America. Fans of the football program have the players, and they are willing to follow them to the end. What Michigan football doesn’t have is the success. All these fans are being disappointed time and time again, when they should be feeling the same feelings of success and accomplishment that Giamatti so intricately describes.

Shane Morris getting rocked

The attached GIF is that of Shane Morris getting rocked by a hit that should have ejected the Minnesota player from the game. After said hit, Shane Morris wobbled around, needing the support of a linebacker to stand up, and showed very obvious signs of a concussion. The entire stadium watched as Shane was then put back into the game, less than two minutes after coming off. Shane Morris is the player that Michigan fans are investing their surrogate into Shane Morris and the rest of the Maize and Blue, so that’s why it hurts so much watching Michigan football fail. Seeing Shane Morris nearly get killed in the sacred paradise that is sport is not only watching a kid getting hurt, but it is watching our kid getting hurt. It is watching the team that we identify with getting hurt. It is watching the program that we ourselves invest our surrogate for a religious experience getting hurt, and that is why Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon need to be fired.

Michigan football isn’t just a football program, it is our surrogate, it is a community that millions of fans can be a part of and invest something into. Bo said what a great thing it was to be part of the team, but right now, being part of the team hurts. Giamatti’s idea that the spectator puts himself into the player proves why Michigan is so upset about the football program. It isn’t the team that’s losing, it is us, and that doesn’t feel very good at all.

“Professional Sport”: Also a form of “play” defined by Huizinga?

So when I first read bthor22’s “The Transformation of ‘Play’”, I was planning to write a short comment about my different point of view about professional sports, but I ended up wrote a whole bunch of paragraphs so I finally decided to expand it and write it as an separate blog post.

In bthor22’s “The Transformation of ‘Play’”, the central thesis is basically that the modern professional sports is no longer defined by Huizinga’s definition of ‘Play’ because the primary motivation for the modern athletes is monetary needs. However, I was not fully convinced and I believe that this is an arguable idea.

Before going on to talk about the professional athletes, I firstly want to discuss how the casual form of sports, that people play after school or work, is defined by Huizinga’s definition of ‘Play’. In Huizinga’s “Homo Ludens”, he presented several basic features or traits of ‘Play’. If we put a type of sports, ex. soccer, into Huizinga’s context, we would apparently find that soccer (or any other casual sports) is defined as a form ‘Play’ by Huizinga: playing soccer is voluntary; it is ‘pretend’ (outside real-life); it is not about normal wants and needs; it is limited in time and space; it has a fixed ‘cultural form’ (repeated in some style once formed); it is rule-governed…and so on. Therefore, ‘soccer’ (or other sports), played by amateurs, is definitely defined as a ‘Play’ by Huizinga’s definition.

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