Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sports is the continuation of politics by different means

For all kinds of reasons, sports and politics seem less intimately connected in North America than in Europe.

Perhaps that's because on my continent, most major-league cities have just one team in each sport. That means fewer politico-religious divides like that between Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow, and fewer teams with noxious political associations like Italy's Lazio.

I thought of this most recently when I came across the following in Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's novel The Man of My Life. The protagonist, Pepe Carvalho, recalls a stage comedy with Catalan nationalist undertones from his youth:
"It was the period when the Catalan language was undergoing a timid revival, and the Franco authorities allowed the play to be put on in church halls. Despite the restrictions, the actors usually managed to insert a few subversive jokes. Carvalho recalled how the Devil, defeated yet again by the Archangel Michael, and flattened on the stage with the angel's foot on his back, lifted his head a couple of inches and shouted: `Miquel! Miquel! Sembles el Real Madrid, que sempre vol guanyar!"*

* Michael! Michael! You're like Real Madrid, you always want to win!
It will surprise no one to learn that Vázquez Montalbán was both a man of the left and an FC Barcelona supporter. In fact, I may prepare a post on why Vázquez Montalbán's politics are so engaging.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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14 Comments:

Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Fascinating, Peter! Of course, I'm in a rush as usual, but wanted to say hi!

Speaking of sports, do you have a favorite for the baseball playoffs. Are you a baseball fan at all?

Have a wonderfuld day! :))

October 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, my wish would be for the Phillies to win, if I could have the fawning local newscasters and the destructive victory celebrations transferred to another city.

I'd have liked to see the Twins win their series in the American League.

Thanks!

October 13, 2009  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

It is interesting how sports in North America has avoided those kinds of social and political connections.

Of course, we don't have the travelling fans very much in North America -no one sets aside part of their stadium for visiting team supporters. Maybe the distance is too great, maybe there's some other reason.

For a brief time in the 80's we had the Nordiques and Canadiens in Quebec and their supporters pretty well lining up with seperatists and nationalists but you always felt their hearts weren't really in it beyond the hockey.

I have to say I think it's a good thing that sports in North America don't have those connections.

The Celtic-Rangers stuff shows up in Christopher Brookmyre's stuff a little and Denise Minna used the fact that someone was a Partick Thistle supporter - the team I would certainly support if I lived in Glasgow.

October 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, I think I read somewhere that there was a bit of a linguistic split between supporters of the Canadiens and of the old Montreal Maroons.

The radical differences between sports in North America are such a fascinating subject. I'm astonished by the European club systems, whereby even the highest-level teams will have clubs down to the youth level. Teams seem to have much deeper roots in their communities than American teams do, which could account for the stronger ties between communities and teams. Of course, Rupert Murdoch, the Premiership and globalization could be changing all that. If those connections ever existed in North American sport, they probably disappeared early in the 20th century.

And I agree that the absence of those connections in North America these days is a good thing.

Too bad you won't be Indianapolis. I'll tell Howard Shrier to bring back some of those delicious Indiana bagels for you.

October 13, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

"Teams seem to have much deeper roots in their communities"

The players are too well-paid to live in the same parts of town their fans live in now.

I've read stories from both old players and old fans in Brooklyn which indicated Duke Snider lived on the same block as the fans did, and Furillo was two streets over, etc.

October 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think I also read in Bill James (the baseball writer/thinker) an observation that illustrated what a normal guy Gil Hodges was: In the midst of a horrible slump, he was spotted shopping at the supermarket, a regular guy going about his daily chores.

Even in my earliest days as a baseball fan, which immediately predated the free-agent era, one would read about players having off-season jobs. I also remember a sports magazine that features head shots of a bunch of major leaguers on the cover and speculated about who the first player would be to earn $200,000 a year.

October 14, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I remember the outrage (OUTRAGE!) on the part of sportswriters when Koufax and Drysdale staged a joint holdout in spring of 1966. They wanted a 3-year deal at $167K/year for each of them. They settled for a 1-year deal: Koufax $125K and Drysdale $110K. For comparison, at the time Willie Mays was the highest-paid player at $125K/year.

October 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I remember when either Willie Mays or Carl Yaz signed an unheard-of $165,000 contract.

October 15, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

The Celtic-Rangers stuff shows up in Christopher Brookmyre's stuff a little

A lot in The Sacred Art of Stealing, which is perhaps is best novel.

October 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have heard tantalizing reports of Brookmyre's use of the Celtic-Rangers, green-blue rivalry. I have not read The Sacred Art of Stealing, though. Perhaps I'll make that my next Brookmyre.

October 15, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

I think you could like it more than his others, but try to avoid blurb summaries or back covers - not that there are huge spoilers, but it's more enjoyable going in blind.

October 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Someone (not you this time, I think) gave me a description of a Brookmyre book in which two groups or mobs whale on each other simply because one wears blue and the other green, if I recall correctly. I want to read whichever book said recommender had in mind.

October 16, 2009  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

I love that cover!

October 19, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Better than this one?: http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2009/10/man-in-my-life-by-manuel-vazquez.html

October 19, 2009  

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