Olympics

Source: The New Yorker

Health we understood. We knew what made a person healthy: sleeping with the windows open and drinking three glasses of whole milk a day. It was pretty simple.

Organized sports are an attempt, through regimentation (uniforms and trophies) and rhetoric (rah-rah boosterism and coach talk), to give an inherently pointless activity some kind of point, to inject a purpose into play.

I did get to watch “Wide World of Sports.” The show, which was on the air for thirty-seven years, was created and produced by Edgar Scherick and Roone Arledge, telecommunications visionaries who grasped a basic ingredient of male psychology, which is that, no matter what kind of contest you put on the screen, men will say, “Wait a second. I just want to see how this comes out.”

And probably better to have in your own house, rather than over there, because showing people performing amazing feats with their bodies is one thing that television does really well. Yes, television organizes the perceptual field—it “tells” you what to look at—but, unless you know the sport and the competitors pretty well beforehand, you are not going to make much sense of what you’re looking at otherwise. The Olympics present themselves as pure spectacle—as Auden said of poetry, the Games appear to make nothing happen—and television loves a spectacle. Even more, television loves a spectacle that has a script, a live event for which every camera angle can be plotted—that is, a ritual. Read more…

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