Over at the Z Man’s, a discussion of sports veered into how kids used to play in the good old days. They made an excellent point, that pickup games used to be how kids learned to socialize. They were, in effect, political education:
Everyone knows the rules of baseball. But since getting 18 kids together in the same place for any length of time is all but impossible, you had to learn to adjust on the fly — modifying, scrapping, or even inventing rules as the situation dictated. “We don’t have a right fielder, so hits to right are automatic outs.” “Jimmy’s Dad is all-time pitcher.” Or, most commonly, “ghost runner on third.”
The goal wasn’t to win the game; the goal was to keep the game going. Thus nobody could impose his individual will on the group, but nobody’s opinion could be ignored. In the same way, nobody could truly dominate, and nobody was so terrible that he couldn’t contribute. Whatever beefs you had with any of the other kids had to be set aside if you wanted to play, and from this you generally learned that whatever you were fighting about isn’t such a big deal… or you learned that life is full of jerks, and one of the rules’ main functions is to let you get along with jerks long enough to accomplish the goal.
Flexibility within a common cultural framework. Bending the letter of the law while keeping its spirit. Functional compromises with jerks. Baseball really is a metaphor for America, ain’t it?
At least, it was. There’s no sandlot baseball anymore. There are fewer kids around, for one thing, but more importantly, their parents are far too invested in their precious little snowflakes to let them get into an un-monitored contest. What if Little Dakota gets a boo-boo? Worse, what if Little Dakota’s boo-boo ruins his chances of making the traveling team this year? (Little Dakota is, of course, a future Major Leaguer according to his parents).
So the government has to step in. Everything must be Official. There is no fun but government-sanctioned fun. Some authority figure is always on hand to adjudicate, and the authority’s imperatives — e.g. getting more genderfluid third graders on the team — always take priority over piffling little matters like “the rules” or “playing the game in the first place.” Submission to authority is all.
The Soviets, you’ll recall, were all-in on sports… but, ironically, only individual sports. (The few teams were. of course, thinly-disguised Red Army teams). Training in isolation, performing in front of just a few (easily influenced) judges… that’s the Communist ideal. As Z Man’s post notes, youth participation in “sports” is dropping across the board. I suspect that trend is about to reverse, as the Left rediscovers populism and even nationalism (ask Joe Crowley). When’s the next Summer Olympics? That’s always good for advertising cute little White girls in Soviet-style sports like gymnastics. Swimming, too, I bet will take off soon (the Diversity don’t take well to water). Plus, an extracurricular is an extracurricular, right? And as we know, girls have weightlifting teams in high school….Loading Likes...