George Orwell’s Essay, “The Sporting Spirit”

The Sporting Spirit

    I am always amazed when I hear people
    saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only
    the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or
    cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even
    if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for
    instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred,
    one could deduce it from general principles.

    Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to
    win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On
    the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local
    patriotism is involved. it is possible to play simply for the fun and
    exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you
    feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the
    most savage combative instincts are aroused. Anyone who has played even
    in a school football match knows this. At the international level sport
    is frankly mimic warfare. But the significant thing is not the behaviour
    of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the
    spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these
    absurd contests, and seriously believe–at any rate for short
    periods–that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national
    virtue.

    (via a tweet from JLobster)