A Search for Ethical Consciousness in Sports: A Positive Argument

I have looked at two major areas of concern for anyone wanting to be an ethical consumer of Western sports: fighting in hockey (generalizable to overly physical contact in sports) and supporting the consumerist culture by watching, attending, buying merchandise, etc. To end this discussion (for now) I will sketch an argument for some of the positive reasons why one might be a sports fan.

First, when actually thinking about and discussing my love for the Canucks, it is clear that I highly value the sense of community that being a fan brings. But it isn’t just any community, since I could easily find countless communities whose members, on the whole, share more in common with me than does the average Canucks fan. And, as I think I have made clear over the last two posts, I do not necessarily even have the same views about hockey as many other Canucks fans do. So what is so valuable about this group? It is, compared to the other groups with which I identify and with which I communicate, safe, effortless, and apolitical. Living in Vancouver, it is also an ‘in’ thing to do – and rarely do I find any interest in actively being a part of something like that – and there is something truly positive about that (just ask a Jew living in Israel why they couldn’t live anywhere else, or read this book). Other than the Olympics, which are not going to be replicated anytime soon, there is nothing like watching this city unite around the singular cause of cheering on the Canucks come playoff time. In this age, where it is clearer than ever that ‘community’ is not a clearly delineated term, and that so often the communities one belongs to are complicated and contradictory, it is beneficial (some might say even necessary at times) to fully belong to just a single community at a given time. That is what the Canucks give me, above all else.

After that I really find that the rest of the reasons really take a back-seat role, but I would like to identify a few anyways, as some of them may ring true for you more than the above. This society deeply engrains the value of following (not on Twitter) those you look up to in some way, and while I disdain the practice generally because I do not consider those people elevated to the status of ‘role model’ to be my role models, the Canucks (athletes generally) are an exception. There is also something that resonates for me with being part of a ‘team’ larger than yourself. Now I know that I am not able to score goals or make saves for the Canucks, but if you ever listen to an NHL player talk about home-ice advantage, they know when they are playing at home and when they are playing away from home. It makes sense, even to us mortals who do not enjoy the stardom that professional athletes do, that if you had a task to accomplish, it would probably be easier if there were 20,000 people cheering you on, fully supporting you. And so I love quoting the Canucks marketing slogan from a few years back: “We are all Canucks” (pretty good, right, since Canucks = Canadians?).

Last, but not least, I could not ignore the comment from my last post which correctly points out that the Canucks are my primary form of escapism. Of course a topic like escapism really deserves it own post (or series of posts) but for now I will just present a basic account. While being a function of privilege, and therefore one that should be revisited regularly, the ability to spend a set amount of one’s time ‘escaping’ from the rest of life – which tends to be full of overly serious topics and thoughts – is truly relaxing. Of course, given that these posts are about consuming sports ethically, I would like to underline the point that if one does not need the escape, and can do more that is productive rather than watching another highlight package, then there is no excuse not to do so, given how luxurious the practice is in the first place. But under the assumption that a certain amount of ‘time off’ actually helps to make you more productive the rest of the time, escapism as a part of one’s life seems like an acceptable way to go about that. Of course, with the Canucks as your avenue to escapism, you run the risk of letting someone else dictate how much ‘time off’ you should have, which is dangerous, since watching more Canucks games will invariably be preferable to doing whatever is ‘work’ for you. So try to stay ethically conscious of why you are watching the Canucks (or your team of choice, though really, the Maple Leafs are not a good choice ;)).

I look forward to hearing what others think, whether I have missed obvious reasons for being a sports fan, and to continuing to refine my own practices around what has been one of my favourite activities.

[Special thanks are due to Juliana Dalley for really prompting this entire discussion, and providing helpful insights and questions]

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3 thoughts on “A Search for Ethical Consciousness in Sports: A Positive Argument

  1. I’d like to kick-start your thoughts on the concept of “Escapism”.
    You mention that you see it as a “function of privilege”.

    I would argue that it is the opposite.
    I reckon that the less-privileged have more to escape from, no?
    Hence, would they not end up escaping more often?
    Perhaps, to a point where it becomes deleterious to the rest of their life?

    My mind immediately conjures the hideous image of an average American under heavy stress. I can see them sprawled out on the couch, in front of the TV, watching Judge Judy, over-eating fast food, consuming copious amounts of sugar (hello rising incidence of diabetes Type 2), possibly charging some inane item to their mounting credit card bill while they procrastinate on paying their bills, walking their dog, and loving their kids.

    Ouch! Bleak picture isn’t it?

    Ultimately, we all need to relax. That much is true. Watching the Canucks is a form of relaxation. Escapism is relaxation’s mean, burly, and unforgiving cousin. It is the extreme form of relaxation yet, it exists on the same continuum. Escapism happens when one cannot or would rather not ‘face’ a potentially painful/stressful event. On a lesser scale, relaxation happens when we need a temporary break. The Canucks are a temporary break, unless they figure into a larger habit of avoiding life and what needs to get done. For you and I, the Canucks are an opportunity to rest. For an escapee, the Canucks are a prolongation of avoiding responsibilities etc. Escapism is therefore, pathological. For the person I described above, the idea of collecting their thoughts, finding solutions to the many unique problems of life, and then the time to take action is far more daunting than tuning off and escaping. The challenge in life, and I do not mean to trivialize this, is to find the strength and courage to do the things we know we have to do even when we do not want to…of course at some point we can ask for help as well. One really should be taught these skills from an early age. Coping and problem solving, after all, are learned skills.
    I would go as far as to say that escapism is an evolutionary skill, one that humans employ to deal with high levels of stress. Escapism allows a person under heavy duress to temporarily return an otherwise chaotic world to homeostasis, where we feel most comfortable. This temporary peaceful state offers us the opportunity to seek out help, formulate solutions, and/or take action. Sadly, escapism can become a go to behaviour/habit leading to hopelessness, depression etc. Still, in small doses, I see escapism as perfectly natural if not altogether healthy. That is, so long as the person is able to use the peace afforded by that down time productively.
    So please go cheer your heart out for the Canucks and rid yourself of some of that built up cortisol so that you can do the other things in your life even better.

    Great blog, extremely thought provoking, and a great way for me to relax.

    Thank you! Go Canucks!

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