While discussing favorite movies with friends this past weekend, a close friend of mine folded his arms as he leaned back in his chair and proclaimed with a scowl, “I don’t do sports movies. Sports are a waste of human potential.”
Given that he is an outspoken opponent of most things aerobic, we weren’t necessarily shocked at the sentiment, though perhaps caught off guard by such a strong statement (especially since this is Seattle, land of passive-aggressive euphemisms).
We all granted him that sports culture in the U.S. has spun completely out of control. As a fellow educator who works with him on a daily basis, I also granted him that the number of youth who dedicate their energy to “Hoop Dreams” at the expense of all else to their own detriment could be considered a waste of human potential. Even among the few who do make a living playing sports, most hit their peak at 30. To dedicate oneself to an endeavor in which people generally peak at 30 is almost contemptuous of human life.
My other friend countered that what makes sports great is watching people strive to be the best at something they love. Furthermore, the very fact that the average person cannot do the things professional athletes do routinely is worthy of our attention. The fact that many youth do waste potential on sports is a failure of the adults who pressure them to do so, not the youth following a dream. Sports are not a waste of human potential, but almost a celebration of the human body and perhaps more importantly, the human spirit.
After 5 to 10 more minutes pontificating about the existential value of sports to humanity, we ended the discussion, exhausting the arguments of our “aerobophobic” friend. However, I coincidentally decided to watch the recently released documentary Sonicsgate about the Seattle Sonics relocation to Oklahoma City last night and was unexpectedly brought back to the discussion through the words of writer Sherman Alexie.