I’ve watched or played sport my whole life. Some of my first memories from my childhood are of playing football (soccer) in the garden or watching snooker with my grandfather on the TV.
I’ve watched a variety of sports across the years. Downhill skiing, athletics, rugby union, rugby league, football, AFL to name but a few. One of my favourite programmes when I was younger was Transworld Sport, a programme that showcased sports from around the world on a weekly basis.
Then I got into live sport, actually going to the venues to watch sports. I can’t truly remember my first live sport event, it may have been The Tour of Britain cycling event in Birmingham it may not have been.
I now live in a city that allows me to watch live sport every weekend, and not just one type of sport, a variety of sports.
Take this weekend just gone, I had my first experience watching Ice Hockey, a sport I’ve only known though flicking onto the NHL on TV and playing NHL on the Playstation. It was a good week to go, it was the Melbourne derby between the Melbourne Ice and the Melbourne Mustangs.
I think to me the sports arena is the theatre. The Guardian ran an interesting article in 2008 when they sent their arts journalists to sporting events. The article generally agrees that the mediums share much of the same attributes. The drama, the format, the villians, the heros and the crowd interaction. (the Guardian article can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2008/jun/17/thereslittledifferencebetwe)
For me live sport takes me through the rollercoaster of emotions, from triumph to failure in potentially a matter of minutes. It is also a place I feel some belonging, the belonging feeling maybe comes from the fact I’ve attend so many live sports that I feel at home in the crowd, I revel in the atmosphere. I find if you actually support one of the teams that belonging is all about feeling a part of a family, riding that rollercoaster with someone else. A great example of this and an extreme one is Melbourne Storm.
For those that don’t know, Melbourne Storm are the only NRL team based in Melbourne (as opposed to 10 based in Sydney). This gives the stadium a very interesting dynamic, that being that 98% of the crowd support one team. As the team’s form dips during a game you can very audibly hear the hush, and as the team push you feel the excitement so much more than if you were in a stadium of two opposing fans. It enhances that feeling of belonging of being part of a bigger family than just your own.
That moves me on to picking teams. In general I find there are very few true neutrals when watching sport, be this at home or live in the stadium. Even if you are not an actual supporter of either team I find myself always favouring one team or the other. In my case it’s usually the underdog. Everyone loves an underdog don’t they?
The drama of an underdog beating a favourite is surely what many movies and theatres shows are all about. Allocating good and evil to a person or group of people, that is when you become truly emotionally invested.
I find with your own team it can almost be too much though, I struggle through some Melbourne Storm games, especially lately when the scores have been so tight and the wins or losses have been in the last few minutes. I suppose it makes the victories all the more sweeter or the losses so much harder to bare. It a similar thing supporting England, I’m very emotionally invested in them but at times I wonder why.
Sport feeds so many of our needs. Our need to feel part of something bigger, our need for drama and our need for entertainment. I must admit I love it.