The intrigue of sport

I think people appreciate fictional drama because of the characters and the scenarios in which they find themselves. It’s inherently interesting to us to evaluate the actions of these characters for entertainment or for forcing our own minds to assess how we might act in such a scenario. Would we be as brave or get the girl, etc. We may identify with characters most like us, or possibly by those who typify some aspect of what we aspire to.

Sport is similar to this characterization — we have our heroes and our villains, and we evaluate their performance and actions for entertainment. If we play the sport, we might watch for strategy and tips from pros to improve our own performance. But there’s a wonderful, unscripted quality of sport that makes it so appealing to watch. As they say, on any given Sunday (or other sporting day), anything can happen, and that’s fun to watch.

It’s also fun to learn how new sports work. This summer for the Olympics, I watched a bunch of sports I had never seen, like handball and field hockey. You get a sense that, though they are often surprisingly familiar to other sports in many respects, such as field size and scoring and even deeper elements like strategy, they are different enough and always have a unique set of constraints (rules) that make them interesting.

Of course it’s always fun to play new sports, but I’m not entirely sure if I care to or would know how to go about getting into a pickup field hockey game.

Recently I picked up squash, after having played racquetball for a number of years (after having played tennis). The two racket sports are often confused, and they’re similar to a first approximation, but squash has a number of constraints (court dimensions, ball elasticity) that make it an appealing challenge. And as seems to be the case with squash and other sport, you learn how to play on your first try, and you perfect your game for the rest of your life.


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