Sunday, 7 February 2010

What is it about sport?

I have just finished watching England beat Wales at Rugby, and my reactions during that time have been interesting.  Why did I get worried when the Welsh looked like they were going to score, why did I get excited when England looked like they were going to?  And why was I relieved when the final whistle blew?  After all, it is "only a game", and it isn't as though I was playing.  Why do our emotions get so aroused by sport?

Perhaps, more pertinently, why don't they get aroused by other things? Why does the alleviation of poverty and the cancellation of debt not stir similar feelings to the scoring of a try?  (Perhaps it does in some, but I have to confess, not in me).  Why does the progress made towards the Millennium Goals not stir our hearts?

I wonder if at least in part it is because the bar is set so high.  In sport knowing who wins is easy, and you don't have to be good - just less bad than the other team.  With things like poverty and the MDGs the bar has to be set high, but then in our culture failing to reach that bar is seen as failure.  I recall a briefing that I did to my team at work - I cascaded down the doom and gloom, because we were behind budget, that I had received - only for the FD to join us later and in questioning say that although we weren't making budget we were still a profitable company - which many in our industry weren't.

But there is the rub, because if the MDGs were set lower would we still fail to reach them?  One of my managers said "if you aim for the stars you might hit the moon" justifying an approach of setting unrealistic targets to achieve what he really wanted - and there are times when that is right - it is just that it leaves people always feeling like failures.

Just like the Welsh (sorry - couldn't resist J)

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