Introverts and Sports

Sports in their most popular form are just another social venue.  The minority players are involved in an intricate group activity and the majority spectators are involved in a mass cult of fandom.

A Subtle person tends not to fall into either of these categories.  The wide world of sports is merely another obstacle in the way of belonging to the surrounding society.  Attending team rallies and wearing team paraphernalia seems exotically tribal and altogether incomprehensible.


Someone who tends to feel out of touch with the group mentality is unlikely to feel drawn to team sports and probably even less so to the idolization of team sports.
Participating in a team sport is a ritual of belonging and being part of a social machine.  It is about achieving victory by taking the ‘I’ out of team and subordinating oneself to the group for the benefit of all.  A career outsider naturally doesn’t perceive the appeal of engaging in team sport.  Why contribute to a ritual of social endorsement when one has never felt a part of society?  Why make a dramatic display of submitting to a collective when one has never felt a part of the collective?
Adulation for athletes is distasteful to the outsider.  Athletes’ enormous social status gained by playing a mere game seems artificial and shallow.  Those who belong by participating in and promoting a hostile social system are more enemies than sympathetic heroes or ‘role models.’  To bow down to and give the gift of adoration and loyalty to a stranger who will never know or care about you seems the lowest and most abject form of subservience.
This lowest subservience would be given to the very people who in our youths stood at the top of the pyramid in which we never had a place.
-They were the enforcers and preservers of a hostile system.
-They were the arbitrary masters of our world for no real reason that anyone could figure.  The parents, the newspapers, the ‘community’, everyone seemed to place them on a pedestal for no particular reason.  They were the physical manifestation of everything the system selected for.  They were the nobility of social Correctness.
To article: ‘Sports Do Not Belong In Schools’

From my personal experience:

I am actually a fairly athletic person and have been involved with cross country and track and field.   These are not exactly team sports, but people from the same school do work together to win.  I found that I never really belonged socially even in these lower key environments because any sport overwhelmingly seems to attract those who have a collectivist mindset.  Most of my teammates had exceptionally strong ties to the popular culture and saw sport primarily as a social activity

I repeatedly found myself an outsider in these organizations.
Only in cross country did I really stand a chance.  This sport tends to be the lowest in terms of social prestige and it has the potential to attract nerds who have neither the coordination or the keen feel for group dynamics required to excel in team sports. Unfortunately, even cross country was not exactly a safe haven.  For most participants, the sport was their cardio social session between a sedentary summer break and the popular winter games – volleyball and basketball.  Members of the chess club were still in the minority.  Even on the extreme, where Subtle folk could exist in the world of sport, it was still a contentious border zone whereas the classic team sports were entirely within hostile territory.

What are some of the reasons I did not quite fit in even in the friendliest possible sports environment?
Most of my teammates saw it primarily as a social activity.  ‘Stretching’ often lasted half an hour to an hour.  Not only do I lack shared interests with most athletes, I was seething the whole time as I thought of how I’d have time for nothing but homework by the time I finally got home.  Furthermore, I approach exercise from a rationalistic perspective.  Physical fitness and self improvement come first.  I joined a running club so I could get better at running.

This brings me to consider:
Why is the Subtle ethic opposed with the world of sport?

Opposite values and life experiences:

The Subtle are those who have been in conflict with their social surroundings since an early age.
For some of them, lack of athletic talent/coordination have been contributing factors to their present situation of social otherness.
Society has shown itself to be an arbitrary, capricious tyrant.  As such it has no legitimate claim on our lives.
A personal system of values is above the values that we are taught.  Progress is achieved by progressively improving oneself.
One can always find new ways to achieve progress.
Those who are subtle cultivate a tight inner circle.  They relate to and give themselves only to a few.  One ought to recognize their human limits and focus on those who are most important.
Countless millions of dollars go into charity and yet world hunger is rampant:  food aid only worsens the situation by spurring additional unsustainable population growth.

Athletes are those who have seamlessly integrated with their social surroundings from their earliest years.  For many of them, outstanding coordination and athletic skills combined with excellent social skills have catapulted them to the heights of the orthodoxy.
Having fit in by their very nature, it seems as though society is all encompassing with a place for everyone.  Those few who have difficulties just need to put in a little more effort and ‘get out more.’  The legitimacy of their society is taken for granted by virtue of its mass acceptance and their personal success within it.
To make one’s own values is a destructive departure from the group.  Progress is achieved by improving the prestige of the team to which one belongs.
Progress has a tangible goal.  Progress ends at the top of the pyramid whether one is trying to win the state championship or become the CEO.  Outside of established structures, there is only the Void.
They sincerely believe the best way of ‘making the world a better place’ is cleaning up trash from the roadside on Sunday afternoons and giving money to monolithic charity organizations.
World hunger would disappear overnight if only more people engaged in such ‘service projects.’

Sports culture is a manifestation and promotion of Loud values.  Those who excel in the world of sports naturally tend to be Loud people.
Thus one who ‘doesn’t follow sports’ can never quite an insider among those who stand within the orthodoxy.
As a celebration of all that is social and socially accepted, the world of sports is at best an obstacle and at worst a menace in the life of a true introvert.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

Introverts and Sports appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 08/8/11 in featured, Society | 1 Comment | Read More

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