Friday, 25 June 2010

Terry Eagleton on Football

Perhaps in line with Neil's last post on fetishism, and given that a load of footballers are interrupting vuvuzuela concerts in South Africa, I thought that it would be interesting to provide a link to Terry Eagleton's recent article. Eagleton argues in a somewhat conventional sense that football is a distraction from political urgencies. In essence, the old Marxist argument, football is the opium of the people. One interesting aspect of his analysis is that he suggests that football as a spectacle adopts carnivalesque aspect which substitutes for the contemporary
dearth of symbolism and and ritual. Furthermore, he rather cheekily suggests that football fans are the true academics of the world. Involved in the everyday,yet holding the aptitude to discuss with an in depth rigour to rival the greatest of scholastic philosophers the various benefits, evils, intricacies of strategy, grace, morality and ability of the footballing world. I can't say that I can agree with Eagleton's call to ban football, provocatively and all as it is put. I think that if one were to consider football was immoral, we would also have to abandon a whole other raft of practices which exhibit similar characteristics, popular music, religion, politics, art and so on. I think the reason football, or sport in general fascinates us, is that it is truly philosophical in its own kind of way. The vagaries of Mourinho's relationship to Ferguson and the micro-politics which surrounds it is as compelling as any political event. But the point is that football equally follows the same trajectory as other human activities. It offers a rich tableu of human experience and for this reason we philosophize about it and mull over and become engaged with it. So football is philosophical in itself in the same way that religion, art and politics is. Of course, Eagleton's point is well taken, football is a capitalistic enterprise, embroiled in petty narcissism's and a waste of human potential, and has lost its base in the communities. This should be acknowledged, however, sporting activity whether team or individual, has innumerable benefits for a flourishing society such as health, activity, a reduction of depression, and perhaps most importantly the delimitation of disgruntled male anxiety. Or maybe not?

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