For me it was fun to play when I was young. Later, it was fun to watch my kids playing. Now it leaves me cold. When the Olympics is on I guiltily hunt for a movie channel. I enjoy none of the vicarious pleasure from watching sport that others seem to get, and in a small way I am worried about this.
I just don’t get why sport is important in our society, and so I ask myself lots of questions about it. Perhaps you can help me find some answers.
Which is the best Sporting Nation?
This is a regular bar topic, but can we really be objective?
We don’t need to be objective if we can rely on statistics. Tarik’s ??? rates USA the best by a good margin across a broad range of sporting events. We get a score of 134
Next in line is Australia with a score of 92.
These scores are based on achievement in 2007, and are bound to fluctuate over the years. However, these two rankings are also found here dubiously based only on opinions of a volunteer sample.
So the question should really be addressed as an average over time.
If Australia can come second in a global medal tally, even though it has only one tenth of the population of the USA, ( By population USA is 3rd and Australia is 53 rd) does that not indicate that they may be on average better at sports than Americans? Does that make their country better at sport? I think they could only achieve that result if they had a higher participation rate.
What does all this say about the country itself. Excellence in sport across the whole spectrum of events can only be achieved (in the absence of unfair government assistance) if the people have sufficient affluence and spare time to spend on elite sporting activity. So it is probably a good indicator of the quality of life in the country.
But then it appears that African Americans are higher achievers than white Americans, so what happened to the correlation with affluence? Is it all about genes? There are no African genes in Australian sport, and no significant genetic differences with Europeans or white Americans.
Then there is the opportunity cost. If the people spent their time doing something more productive, say science, then perhaps their country could be top ranking in another field, That might make them smarter, but would it make them happier?
Perhaps it all has more to do with the weather. Both Australia and the USA have plenty of good weather for sports training. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that Australia has little cold weather and it achieves poorly at the Winter Olympics.
Does elite sport have any intrinsic value at all for the individual or the nation. The health benefits of participation are obvious, but at the elite level it probably does more harm than good to the body.
Is it good for the nation?
Is it good for the mentality of the player?
Because sporting achievers are looked up to, should they have to live up to the role model image for the sake of children?
Is sporting achievement a reliable indicator of the quality of an American college?
Is sport in any way a model for life? Does it build “character” that makes players more able to cope with adversity, pain, competition, studies, or business?
Should we also consider the mental impact on those who lose at sport continually?
If playing sport is virtuous, is there any virtue in being only a spectator?
Does any particular sport stand out as being better for the player or for the nation?