What Has Become of Sports Nowadays?

By Enriqueta

January 17, 2019


Who said that something had happened to sports? Stadiums are filled with huge crowds of people, some distant relative of yours enrolled in a tennis academy last week, acquaintances are discussing the latest success of your local team. Maybe your grandpa who saw a lot of teams in their prime, stars and eras in sports under different regimes, presidents and systems, is a bit sad watching Champions League or other highest-level competitions, and sometimes bitter words, dormant for quite some time, finally break free from his mouth, and then you suddenly understand that these words start shaping your humdrum life in a sense, being far from just some grumbling of an oldster. At least they are not confined to such pejorative status, even if we are ready to make some amendments.

Fair Play or Class Privilege?

If that was true about your second cousin or his pal, you’d better ask him how he did it. Of course you’ve got to remember that in different countries it’s either easier or not to launch a career of sportsman, or should I say, to prepare yourself for it with bells on. Be it as it may, it’s really hard to expect good results without considerable financial backup. You can be critical towards socialist systems, but sometimes, in all fairness, it should be said that it gave more opportunities to develop yourself as a future sportsman. Now, unfortunately, different “ceilings” for opportunities are widespread. If the prestige of competing on university level exists in your country and it is fostered by the state favoring this process, then it’s all to your benefit. But the situation in lots of countries makes us think about sports as a “membership club” where it’s not so easy to get into (at least pure talent isn’t likely to be enough, anyway). As a result, the army of fans turn out to be not just fans of achievements the sports is all about, but of logic itself of entering this weird club. So, welcome another milieu marveling at the omnipresent “lifehack logic”, and that is sports.


So, it’s crystal clear that we faced overcommercialization in sports and moreover, rarely anywhere else did it hit the eye so unabashedly. Everyone has always known it, it seems, but sometimes there happen to take place some eye-opening events, even to those who didn’t understand anything until the eleventh hour, for instance the transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to PSG for €222 million. Not only did it change our view of what it’s like to live in an era of such talented (costly?) performers, but it also set a new standard of stardom in football. But this new dimension is not exactly about being unapproachable in terms of pure talent, it just made competing in football even more one-sided:  the average transfer price of a quality footballer is on the rise and only football teams’ managers who can afford buying such expensive players can pretend to win nearly each and every championship.

Aesthetics Can Still Be Found

FC Barcelona’s game has always been like a breath of fresh air to anyone feeling nostalgic for the game being a romantic show, and despite depending on financial component just like other “greats” of European football, aesthetics still counted a lot for Barcelona. When these outbursts of passion were combined with excellent results, something of an era-defining discourse was already here, it seemed.

So Has Anything Really Changed at All?

Yes, it did. We can go on it for as long as we wish, but one thing is for sure: modern type of commercial relations exist already for a while now, but for the last several decades we faced a phenomenon that had been hanging in the air for quite a long time: teams are no longer hubs of meaning, in other words, they just lack “ideology”.  They seem to have got crowds of fans, participate in some charity actions, but the feeling of watching something completely fake doesn’t leave you.  That’s exactly the thing that has been drawing such an enormous attention to FC Barcelona apart from outstanding aesthetics of the game: the presence of ideology. Being on top before such a brilliant period that began somewhere around 2005, the team didn’t have such jaw-dropping results (but the signature style could be permanently felt throughout). All of it inspires hefty portions of respect, doesn’t it?  No wonder it often feels like a farewell to both generation and era when the team looks languid. It’s not about defeats (Barcelona is formally still on top in team standings). We’re all used to view Barça as something more than just a beautiful team: a sign of times, an incentive to dream, a stronghold of certain romantic values we are currently yet to find in other reifications.

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