When Cults Collide: How Big Sports & CEO Worship Threaten Societies [View all]
AlterNet / By Lynn Parramore
When Cults Collide: How Big Sports and CEO Worship Threaten Societies
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Big Sports in America, along with the corporate religion of CEO-worship, exhibits cult-like features that make the tolerance of criminal activity something we should expect. When cults collide, conditions emerge that are poisonous to healthy, law-abiding, open societies.
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In his essay “The Sporting Spirit,” George Orwell outed the cult-like aspect of large-scale sports, which arose in the 19th century in England and the U.S. in a way the world had not seen since Roman times. He debunked the myth that serious sports was nothing more than good clean fun. Sure, it’s possible for to play harmless games, but when losing means shame for the whole group, barbaric instincts surface. The competition takes on the character of warfare, where winning is the virtue, and getting in the way of winning is the vice. Intense rivalries beget a culture of cheating. Serious sports aren’t about fair play, concludes Orwell, but rather “hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.”
Along with the rise of nationalism, big time sports grew as heavily financed activities that could draw huge crowds and inspire extreme loyalty. People learned to identify with larger power units and to view everything in terms of competitive clout. Organized games flourished in urban communities where workers lived sedentary and confined lives without much chance of creativity or physical release. Cursing the other team on game day was an outlet for pent-up sadistic impulses.
In Understanding Power, Noam Chomsky notes that large-scale sports encourages anti-social human psychology and passive acceptance of traits like aggression. “It’s hard to imagine anything,” he observes, “that contributes more fundamentally to authoritarian attitudes than this does.” (See this video).