Over the summer most of us will have been unable to ignore the tennis at Wimbledon, the IAAF athletics World Championships in Moscow and the start of the football season in August. During this period tens of millions of people will have tuned in to the media to share in the agony and ecstasy that accompany all sport.
Whether you like it or not, either participating, watching or both, sport plays an incredibly important role in society today. In reading this fascinating book, I could not but help recognise its link to my own experiences.
I was a rubbish amateur boxer from eight to 18, a right-winger (in football!) and a budding triathlete. I have been addicted to following Liverpool Football Club for 38 years. All helped me do things I previously thought I never would and things I wished I never had – learning to swim when I was nearly 30 and then completing a triathlon through to less salubrious collective behaviour at football matches in the 1980s. In the process, this has cost me a small fortune, made me both deliriously happy and miserable, and both closed and opened my eyes to new people, places and cultures.
Even for a sports addict like me, what the book makes clear in a number of illuminating and surprising ways is that sport reflects all that is inspiring and uplifting about humanity and some of which we would be better off without. Sport is woven into the very fabric of our lives and many aspects of life under contemporary capitalism feed into and underpin sport
Socialists cannot simply dismiss the role of sport as degrading, divisive and making bumper dividends for multinational corporations. It is all of that. But that is too simplistic. Like sport, there really is something in this book for everyone, from critiques of the horrendous physical and financial costs of sport to the role political resistance has played throughout its modern history.
Reading it, I was enraged at the commodification of our need to feel free from work, captivated by the hunger-striking Palestinian footballer and emboldened by Muhammad Ali. At times the brevity of some chapters can be frustrating, especially the ones which I knew little about and others that made me clamour for more. The introduction is a must, but as each chapter is a story in its own right you can you can dip in and out depending on what interests you. What you can’t do is ignore the importance of sport.
Capitalism and Sport, Michael Lavalette (ed), Bookmarks £9.99 pounds (GB).
Available at Bookmarks, the Socialist bookshop.