Experiencing the Magic Circle

In Homo Ludens, by Johan Huizinga, we are exposed to the term Magic Circle. Huizinga’s definition states that the magic circle opens up a new form of consciousness, allowing players to escape their world and enter into a new one. Here at the University of Michigan there are many different magic circles, such as the pool, the Big House, the baseball field, the field hockey field, the basketball court and so many more.  As a women’s lacrosse player here at the University of Michigan, we are privileged enough to play our competition on the Big House field during the spring. The Big House creates an alternate atmosphere for the athletes on the field especially for football players. Running through the tunnel onto the field into such a big stadium is like no other feeling at all. You are entering into a space bigger than you can imagine as you look up and see all the seats. Although our games do not fill up the entire Big House as football games do, it is still an exhilarating experience to play on such a sacred field.

As an athlete, I can personally say that when in a game of competition, everything else in the world does not matter except for that exact moment. Huizinga does define play as being a freedom from reality. You step onto the field or court or whatever is your magic circle for your play and think of nothing else but what you can do to be successful. The atmosphere within your sport allows you to take your mind off of what is happening in your life whether it is good or bad. You step into a world where you are in the spotlight, the fans and your teammates cheering, your coach shouting, and your mind is focused on the game. You and your team are the only important people out there and you all have the same mindset. You are all working collectively to win as a team.

However, this all changes if someone becomes a “spoil-sport”, another point Huizinga describes. No one likes those who do not follow the rules. Once this happens the entire atmosphere, the magic circle, changes. The new world that the play created is broken. Everyone’s mentality around you changes, even the fans. As we discussed in lecture, the fans are also included as part of the magic circle. The fans add to this unreal atmosphere because you get lost in the noise around you. However, it is not hard to tell when the imaginary world of the magic circle is broken as the fans get rowdy.

The atmosphere within the magic circle while playing a sport allows the participants to escape out of their everyday lives. All stress is forgotten once the game begins and everyone is striving to work together.