Bread & Circus

For the first time in my life, I’ve made it to 3 sporting events in one month. May not sound like a big deal, but… I’ve never been too interested in the athletic-type activities. I enjoy skiing, it’s just a shame it’s so damn cold in Northeast, I played volleyball for 2 years in high school and I don’t follow the sport but I watch it every once in a while, at the Olympics and such, hiking is fun – especially being in the proximity of the Green and White Mountains, and within the past year or so, I’ve committed myself to being a semi-avid fan of tennis, and my interest has been piqued by national and European club soccer. I’ve grown, I really have.

While I may not keep up with the progression of the Red Sox each season, I am a Red Sox fan. There is no other option for a resident of… well… let’s say New England, just to be safe. The Red Sox fan base in Boston is extreme, the people are dedicated and they feel every win, every loss, maybe a little too deeply, but it is admirable and contagious nonetheless. And when you manage to snag (literally landed in my lap) a foul ball, and you manage to get seats 4 rows from the field, you just can’t help but drink the kool-aid. And then there’s Fenway, an absolute icon in American history, the oldest operating Major League Baseball stadium, home to the Green Monster, stomping ground of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and other greats (that I unfortunately do not know much about). If you were born/raised/reside in or around the title town that is Boston, you don’t have to love the Sox, but you definitely have to like them.


Big Papi, in all his glory.
Big Papi, in all his glory.

One of our local celebrities is Big Papi, Mr. David Ortiz. Since 2003, Ortiz has been a staple of the Sox, when he comes on the field, the energy in the stands turns on a dime. He saunters up to the plate, the crowd goes wild, it’s very cool.

Just before my best Sox experience, I made it to my first ever tennis event. 2013, night session – our goal was to witness a chapter of the ever astonishing rivalry that exists between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Unfortunately, Federer ducked out early, and we spent our day at Flushing Meadows a little sad, a bit bitter, but happy to be there nonetheless.

Tennis, I feel, is a different beast all together. There are not many individual sports where you are fighting directly against a single opponent… boxing (and the many international variations of combat), fencing, is that it? This quality makes it a mental game more than anything. There is a certain physical prowess related to excelling in the sport, but if you have the strong mentality to stay calm during high pressure points and the cognitive capabilities to process your opponent’s movements in order estimate the projection of their ball and how you will receive it in order to return it exactly to where/how fast/with the degree of spin that you desire, it’s incredible! All these forces are working against you, and you have to process them all in order to make a return of your own accord. Come on, that’s not easy!

Not quite conducive to noticing the finite aspects of the sport.
Not quite conducive to noticing the finite aspects of the sport.

The U.S. Open (hard court) is our nation’s grand slam tournament in professional tennis. The others occur in Australia (Australian Open/hard court), France (French Open/clay), and England (Wimbledon/grass). The thing is, going to the tournaments is fun, I’d assume a lot more enjoyable if you get to see your favorite player(s), but when it comes to observing the game, there’s no better medium than TV (unless you have supreme court-side seating). The cameras are right on the players, they show every little detail, it’s the best way to get the full game.

If you don’t know who Roger Federer is, if he’s not your favorite tennis player, perhaps favorite professional athlete in existence, it’s time to change that.

In the hands of RF, a tennis ball is not some uncontrollable force. He is a magician, in a matter of seconds, capable of harnessing the rogue energy and expelling it completely by his own accord. The thing goes where he wants, at the speed he wants, with the spin he wants, in astonishing effortlessnessDavid Foster Wallace, hopefully you know of him, was a modern philosopher in the guise of a writer and wrote an incredible piece titled Federer as Religious Experience, that speaks for itself:

“Anything you want to know about Mr. Roger N.M.I. Federer — his background, his home town of Basel, Switzerland, his parents’ sane and unexploitative support of his talent, his junior tennis career, his early problems with fragility and temper, his beloved junior coach, how that coach’s accidental death in 2002 both shattered and annealed Federer and helped make him what he now is, Federer’s 39 career singles titles, his eight Grand Slams, his unusually steady and mature commitment to the girlfriend who travels with him (which on the men’s tour is rare) and handles his affairs (which on the men’s tour is unheard of), his old-school stoicism and mental toughness and good sportsmanship and evident overall decency and thoughtfulness and charitable largess — it’s all just a Google search away. Knock yourself out.”

And then there was the Revolution. Ever heard of the New England Revolution? I didn’t think so. Soccer, especially club soccer, is not big here, goodness knows why. Which unfortunately results in a sort of unimpressive presentation because the players are not world class, and they’re not pushed to be (which is also why I don’t care much to elaborate). The games, however, are still fun. Pre-gaming with the families from our town meant fare exclusively from Whole Foods and tons of kids from the local teams taking over the entire parking lot, which was a very fun and funny environment.

But then there’s these guys, FC Barcelona. Closer to ballerina’s with their fancy footwork, and more like a machine with their incredible cohesion:

All of the spectator sports, not acknowledging them as showcases of exceptional physical abilities, are always reminiscent of the “circus” of the Roman coliseum. Fantastic displays meant to appease the public. To distract, perhaps, from current unrest, and restore a [temporary] sense of unity and solidarity.

Without the aspect of manipulation, however, sports can have a very powerful effect on the participating communities, helping to establish a kindred identity for the actual benefit of participants. There are those certain rare instances like the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. I can’t speak with any first hand knowledge of the subject, but I was listening to a podcast on the current success of Germany’s economy when the commentators suddenly mentioned this event. Nostalgia took over their tones as they fondly remembered the pleasant summer, an apparent anomaly, as they saw their country[wo]men moving their furniture to lounge outside, and singing the national anthem and proudly waving their flag. To think their daily operations were still reflecting the unfortunate occurrences of their past is quite sad, but to then hear of the summer that brought on a distinct but subtle change, that led to a more open, interested, and relaxed society, it’s moving.

I think that’s enough, a 1,000 word post is more than enough. But why don’t we take a moment to celebrate passing 1,000 views on my site! I don’t hear from you guys, but I see the stats, so thank you. I’ve always liked to write, I find it so gratifying to coherently illustrate thoughts, opinions, etc. it’s like a little game for me 🙂

So thank you again, I hope you receive even a fraction of the incredible joy from reading my posts as I get from writing them.


4 thoughts on “Bread & Circus

  1. Great post, Abigail! Thanks. Go RF, Sox and every armchair quarterback who enjoys the thrill of victory and suffers the agony of defeat.

  2. […] Bread & Circus Very important post in this corner of the internet Happy People and a Couple of Dreams passionate, considerate, and altruistic #MCC2013 To Write What Is True Wine in France, Beer in England, and Whisky in Scotland… Just a glimpse: Tuileries (Champs-Elysées before, Musée d’Orsay to come) Edinburgh Festivals! A little story This is Life (to me) Blue Jasmine, and a commentary Alder Sam’s at Louis […]

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