Sports are losing their humanity

Sports will always be competitive at their core, but often its spiritual aspect is overlooked. The moment where winning becomes secondary and passion comes to the forefront is a human concept that everyone can feel — athletes included.

The way competition can push someone to their absolute physical and mental limits has never changed — it’s why we continuously see record-breaking performances. Even though people will always watch, it’s the emotion that’s produced from the achievement that allows people to connect with the athletes they tune into seeing time and time again. 

In a documentary dubbed Breaking2, Nike collected the world’s fastest marathoners with the goal of breaking the two-hour marathon record, a nearly impossible endeavor. 

The documentary was based around Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who finished just 25 seconds short of completing the marathon in two hours. Albeit a great film, the most striking part of the footage of Kipchoge finishing the race wasn’t his speed. It was the ear-to-ear smile on his face.

Before the run, Kipchoge said, “In life the idea is to be happy. So I believe in a calm, simple and low profile life. You live. You train hard. And you live an honest life. Then you are free.” 

With the pressure on athletes to reach the pinnacle of their sport, it was this spiritual essence that Kipchoge feels through running that moved me. In our society, it feels as if this feeling has drifted away as sports has become more of a lab experiment.  

The most visible shift that has occurred is the reduction of athletes to numbers. In Breaking2, scientists spent copious amounts of money on discovering the best shoe, most efficient stride and smartest diet. The same thing has happened in fantasy sports, where athletes are valued based on their performance. Both instances omit one massive factor: emotion and human will.

We need to recognize that sports are important because they have the power to inspire on a personal level. Reducing athletes to numbers takes the personal connection out of sports. When fans connect, they aren’t cheering for a team, they’re cheering for a story. 

Competition and passion are intertwined, but there needs to be a balance between the two. That requires a change in perspective from the sports world. This occurs through the active participation of the media and sports fans changing the way they judge athletes. 

With a stronger focus on seeing athletes as human beings instead of a group of statistics, the real personal connection athletics can offer to people is brought out. Without this shift, the spirit of sport will be lost. 

 

Matt is The Journal’s Assistant Sports Editor. He’s a second-year English Major. 

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