Saturday, August 09, 2008

thea sports

Tommyball, Capitation and the Function of Sports
By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 09, 09 Kamal, 165 BE

With the opening of the Olympics yesterday, now is a good time to talk about sports and its role in life.

I should carry a recorder around with me to get down the strange conversations and questions I am confronted with by my son Thomas, who turns nine years old tomorrow. He has invented a sport called "Tommy-ball," the first rule of which is "There are no rules." The second rule, needless to say, contradicts the first, "Any player can make, alter or nullify a rule at any time." It contradicts, but is still somehow in harmony. And so the rules continue. As always, I do not know if his idea is original to him or lifted from some Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.

Not to be outdone, I intersperse his long descriptions of Tommyball with my own invented sport, "capitation." Not to be confused with the medieval sport of beheading, capitation pits one locality against another in a contest to see who can most improve the overall health of their inhabitants. Instead of a ball, the towns use statistical indicators of health and fitness. For example, two comparable areas, like Dunnville and Cayuga, might enter into a one year contest to see how much they can improve the health friendliness of their townscape. The place that has the most quiet places to walk and bike, the best gymnasiums, the fewest smokers and drinkers, the most, young and old, who are physically active, and the town with the best diet, would win out. Unlike most sports contests, the result would not be a mere feeling of joy or despair lasting a day or two, but real, long-term benefits for everyone who lives in either town.

A while ago I ran across the following essay about the benefits of sport, written by Shoghi Effendi while still a student. I excerpt here a few paragraphs from what is very much juvenilia. Still, since the Guardian was sickly and rather severely handicapped by an unknown illness (possibly consumption) in his early school career, one can feel a twinge of pain in this description of the benefits of a healthy body -- okay, I feel the twinge, since I am in the same boat as Shoghi Effendi here (which is why I have a special feeling for him), having an annoyingly uncooperative constitution at the best of times, an exposed nerve ending to the vagaries of weather at the worst.

The Function of Sports in Life by Shoghi Effendi
Published in The Students' Union Gazette pages 28-30
American University of Beirut, 1914


If we consider sports from a general point of view and consider their relation to the life of the ancient people we must inevitably come to the conclusion that sports if well conducted, have always raised the standard of the nation to a very high degree. Nations which have played an important role in the Ancient History have all felt the necessity of sports and have introduced these athletic contests in their own domains.

Our next is to examine the results of sports or better, their function. The fact that athletics, a branch of sports, is of great advantage to life is evident to the experienced student of modern European Colleges. The argument which established its necessity is opposed by ignorant people yet it has grown nowadays into an irrefutable fact. Athletics are necessary if not indispensable for the future success of the nation as well as of the individual. "A sound mind in a sound body" was the motto of the Greeks and the model of the strong, healthy and vigorous Spartans. Their carrying out of the plan was a cause for the long existence of Greece and for its luxuriant literary culture. This model in just the same way should be put into action if we wish to have any success in this world.

Athletics refresh the body, tranquilize and enlighten the mind, and develop moral character. As a concrete example let us take a student in his college activities. The student who does exercise is always fresh and vigorous, he seldom gets sick and tired. His jovial character, his good disposition and his interest in life are his chief characteristics.

Moreover in exercising, the student gets animated, his blood is purified and consequently his mind becomes more apt to receive the ideas and thoughts found in his lessons. The health which he acquires will help him to work harder and he becomes more successful. A weak person seldom can endure the hardship of school-life, the trouble of memorizing and persevering in his daily lessons. Lastly when a student is busy with athletics during recess time his ideas do not deviate any more to the path of impurity, to think of such trivial things and the health and strength which he acquires will help him in overcoming such temptations. Generally a healthy person is endowed with a will stronger than that of a weak person.

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