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The Need for Sport

It’s easy to dismiss professional sport as the opium of the masses. The mass hysteria that accompanied Richmond’s inexorable march to Grand Final victory can be dismissed as a juvenile response to a sporting event. We can lament all we want that the passion, tears and jubilation that accompanied Richmond’s Grand Final victory after 37 years in the wilderness was wasted on a football match. We can mutter incessantly about the commercial exploitation of professional sport and sporting clubs treating their members as cash cows, but in the end it will not help us understand the passion and energy that accompanies professional sport.

Human beings need companionship, they need to be able to identify with the people around them. The commercialisation of 21st century life, the lack lustre performance of politicians who act as apologists for unaccountable corporations that exploit the community for commercial gain, the lack of faith in authority figures both in the secular and religious world and widespread community disgust of institutional structures that no longer protect the community from exploitation have driven people who are looking for meaning into the arms of celebrity culture and professional sport.

For a tiny investment you can be part of something that is much bigger than yourself. No matter how vacuous or mundane your personal quest is, you are surrounded by other people who are on the same empty quest. Barracking for a team, worshipping at the feet of a celebrity who is famous for being famous gives you that warm inner glow we all crave for. The Tiger Army, covered with the same club paraphernalia, identify with each other. Strangers great each other with “Go the Tigers”. They share a common story and a common goal. It doesn’t matter how illusory or transient the goal is, achieving it with like-minded people in the same physical arena lifts the soul and purges the mind of self-doubt.

You don’t need to die for your country, you don’t need to pray five times a day or go to church on Sunday. You don’t need to mortgage the house, throw a punch in anger, participate in a demonstration or go to work. All you have to do is call yourself a supporter, don the club colours and pout when you lose and celebrate when you win and you are part of something that is bigger than anything you’ll ever experience in real life. Human beings are social animals, we crave company, more importantly we crave acceptance. When our tribe triumphs, we triumph. When our tribe suffers, we suffer. Virtual triumph and virtual suffering is our individual pathway to Nirvana. It is the balm that shields our soul from the mundane realities of everyday life.

Dr. Joseph Toscano