Monday, July 12, 2010


My friend Rick Hudson and I used to have a way to test people: ask them whether they like football (i.e. soccer). If they said Yes or No, or words to that effect, they passed. If they set off on a rant about how pointless it all is, they failed.

I thought I remembered Umberto Eco failing this test miserably in print, but googling suggests he claims to like football but not football fans (especially Liverpool fans, which is fair enough). Theodore Dalrymple seems to be trying to take this line in his essay on snobbery, which people seem to be reading and linking to, despite this bit:

I admit that, in the inner recesses of my being, I am a fearful snob. For example, I feel nothing but contempt for people for whom sport is important.

How anyone can read this kind of thing is beyond me. The word 'fearful' is the linguistic equivalent of brightly coloured trousers with little animals all over them, i.e. a way to show off one's high socio-economic status that can be passed off as a joke. It's a conspiratorial "Aren't I awful?", laughing about one's own contempt for others. I'm probably missing the point or taking things too seriously, but it strikes me as smug. What's to like about that?

So is sport important? Well, it is undeniably only a game. But games are fun. How can you not like fun? They can also, as Eco and Dalrymple claim to recognise, be art. How can you not like art?

I suppose other people's seriousness always looks silly (see Schopenhauer). But you have to be a bit slow not to realize that this applies to you too, don't you? In the grand scheme of things, perhaps, nothing really matters. But that's a reason not to try to be too grand.

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