I like sports. What I like most is that sports go against the deterministic grain of storytelling. Where the effect of a story is prepared by authors in advance, the outcome of a sporting event is determined as it unfolds. As a storyteller I can often intuit how a drama will play out because I can see the thin wires of preparation leading to a particular resolution or turn of events. In sports there is no script. Just a cast of characters driven by goals and constrained by a set of rules.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there is no narrative in sports. Quite the contrary. The experience of watching a sporting event can be as emotionally involving, if not physically taxing, as any scripted story. Audience investment in the outcome of a particular game, or in the performance of a particular player, or a decisive moment, can lead to heights of excitement and depths of despair.
As with drama, the ability of an audience to become emotionally engaged in a sporting event hinges on the audience’s mental state. Prepare a safe and supportive context and you get wild enthusiasm. Force them to confront realities they don’t want to confront and enthusiasm will wane. [ Read more ]