– Well, good morning, one and all.
In fact, I’ve gotta speak to one of my own to tell you sit down, Phillip, we’re going to start right now.
A very good morning to all of you.
I hope you’ve helped yourself to breakfast to get you all poweredup for this, the Sport at the Service of Humanity Conference here at Georgetown University.
My name is David.
I’m one of the Sport at theService of Humanity team here.
There are quite a few of us dotted around.
I hope you’ll get achance to meet all of us over the course of thenext couple of days.
And I just want to sayon behalf of all of us, we are thrilled, but also really honored that Georgetown University has seen fit to have this conference hereand to include us in it.
It means a lot to us.
I think also just looking at the list of faith leaders, sportleader, of academic figures, of philanthropy leaders, itspeaks volumes to the power, the pulling power ofthis university putting on an event like this, somany thanks indeed for that.
I was going to take a moment or two to give you a bit of backgroundinto sort of who we are in a way, Sport at theService of Humanity, and a bit of the history.
However, if you look at the program, that is sort of us.
That is pretty much everythingthat I think we stand for.
We’ve come to an understandingthat there are six key values which run through every faith.
I’m delighted to say we have a board here, which has them all on there, because I always forgetone of them out of six.
Compassion, respect, love, enlightenment, balance and joy.
And they run through every faith.
The lovely thing isthey are key core values that run through every sport.
That certainly shouldrun through every sport.
And these two incrediblypowerful elements of our life have so much potential to bringthese messages to everyone.
And that brings me to thesecond strand of what we offer here at the conference, andit’s sort of three pillars, really, because we arelooking to drive these things.
Everybody should have theopportunities that we have.
Everybody can be involved increating those opportunities.
And of course, inspiration.
That’s how we get there.
We all need inspiration.
I should just say a hugethanks to Georgetown Hoyas for last night’s inspirationalcomeback.
(laughter) Few, nothing like awin to get off the mark and nothing like a lossto get off the mark.
Very pleased that that went so well.
So, that’s the sort ofinspiration we’re looking for.
I have one last remark.
I might need to check withMonsignor Melchor on this.
I don’t know if you’re allowedto paraphrase the Pope.
But Pope Francis reallyset us on our journey.
He had a remark which we hold very dear.
He said, “Challengeyourself in the game of life “as you challenge yourselfin the game of sports.
” And if you distill thatdown, it is a simple message.
Live like you play.
And that’s a message we want to amplify through the course of this conference.
So, thank you all verymuch indeed for being here nice and bright and early.
Above all, though, Jack, thank you, Jack Degioia, President of GeorgetownUniversity, for enabling this.
I’d be delighted if you wouldsay a few opening remarks.
(applause) – Thank you.
Well, thank you very much, David.
We’re honored to be with you.
And we’re grateful toyou for your leadership.
Well, welcome everyone, and thank you all for your presence this morning.
It’s a pleasure to be withall of you as we gather for the fourth Sport at theService of Humanity Conference.
We’ve been honored to workalongside many partners in the planning of our time together.
The Pontifical Council forCulture, led by His Eminence, Cardinal Ravasi, has beenresponsible for this initiative since its inception, andMonsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca, who serves as undersecretaryof the Pontifical Council and who joins us today.
Our conference planning committee and especially Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East Conference.
Our colleagues in ourDepartment of Athletics, who’ve been integral to thesuccess of this convening and its connections to the large Sport in the Service of Humanity initiative.
And I’d also like toextend a special welcome to Sir John Key, former PrimeMinister of New Zealand, who will offer a keynoteaddress later this morning.
Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner of the National Football League, who for many years served as chair of our Georgetown UniversityBoard of Directors.
And Rich Hluchan, whocurrently serves as president of our Georgetown Alumni Association and is a member of our Board of Directors.
I’m grateful to all ofyou for your presence and for your contributionsto this convening.
As David said, we began last evening at our men’s basketball gameagainst Mount Saint Mary’s.
Who knew we would makeit such an exciting night for everyone, but it’s a timeof joy as we open the season, and it was wonderful to beable to share the experience with so many of you here today.
I could imagine no more fitting opening to our convening than in a celebration of the students who have spent many years of their lives preparing for this moment.
And who have sought toengage in their own work of formation throughparticipation in sport.
The Holy Father has describedsport as an opportunity to express the joy of living.
Through competitive sport, athletes experience, in the words of the HolyFather, “The beauty of living “in communion withothers and with creation.
“Athletes have thisextraordinary opportunity “to communicate to everyone, especially young people, “the positive valuesof life and the desire “to devote it to the pursuitof high and noble goals.
” Close quote.
Well, since this initiativewas launched in the Vatican in 2016, inspired by the Holy Father, led by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Sport at the Serviceof Humanity convening, has gathered in followingyears at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Loyola MarymountUniversity in Los Angeles, and now this fall here, at Georgetown.
Across each of these conferences, we have been united bythe three guiding themes that David identified: inspiration, inclusion and involvement.
These three themes havegrounded our dialogue and given direction to the work that we have been called to take up.
We look to athletes for inspiration.
We look to teams for inclusion.
We look for sports fora place to be involved, to find community.
We have the opportunity here through our conversations together to contemplate sport andhow it shapes each of us.
How it shapes the communitiesof which we are members.
How it enables us to deepenour sense of humanity, our sense of purpose, our faith.
These are ideas embeddedwithin the principles for the Sport at the Serviceof Humanity Initiative.
And I quote, “While westrive for excellence “in sport, it is more important “to aim for excellence as human beings.
” Close quote.
So I’m grateful for thistime with all of you.
I wanna thank you all for joining us over the course of these next two days.
And now I’d like to takea moment to introduce Monsignor Walter Erbi, theDeputy Chief of Mission at the Apostolic Nunciaturehere in Washington, who will offer a blessing atthe opening of today’s session.
He will also share a letterfrom His Holiness, Pope Francis.
Monsignor Erbi, MonsignorMelchor will offer words of welcome from the Pontifical Council.
First, Monsignor Erbi andthen Monsignor Melchor.
(applause) – Thank you, President Degioia.
And good morning to everyone.
It is true that I offer myprayers and my blessings and best wishes for this event, we hope will be successful and fruitful.
But you will understand me if I will, I don’t dare to add my own blessing, to the blessing of the Holy Father.
But I have the honor now to read for you the message of the Holy Father, prepared for this event.
“To those taking part in the conference “on Sport at the Service ofHumanity, Georgetown University, “I offer cordial greetingsto the organizers “and participants inthe Conference on Sport “at the Service of Humanity, taking place “at Georgetown University.
“I thank President John Degioia “and the Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi “for making this gathering possible.
“Your conference, dear friends, provides an opportunity “to reflect on sport as ameans of personal development “and achievement, challenging men and women “to make the most oftheir God-given gifts.
“In this sense, it is not onlyabout winning competitions, “striving for medals, earning fame or money.
“Rather, sport, placed atthe service of humanity, “can lead to the overcoming of prejudices “and the promotion of the gospel values “of peace and fraternal sorority.
“In today’s world, tornapart by so many divisions, “sport remains an area wherepeople are able to meet “without barriers of race, sex, religion, ideology, “or physical condition, where we can experience “the pure joy of playingand competing together “to reach a goal, wheresuccess can be shared “and defeat overcome.
“I encourage you always touphold the dignity and beauty “of the human person through the pursuit “of athletic excellence.
“In this way, you will be able “to promote the positive values “of sport both on andoff the playing field, “with the assurance of my prayers “that your conferencewill bear good fruit.
“I willingly invoke upon all of you “the abundant blessings of almighty God.
“From the Vatican, signed by Francis.
” (applause) – Good morning.
It is difficult to sayanything after my boss, (laughter) Pope Francis has spoken, but as responsible ofthese, one of the people who are at the beginning of these, let me say just a very few words.
This conference today is the outcome of two important events.
One is the memorandum of understanding between Georgetown Universityand the Pontifical Council for Culture, which is the Vatican office for culture and sport.
We have been doing a numberof events and projects in other fields, literature, dialogue with non-believers, Courtyard of the Gentile, and science and now sport.
And it is this conferencealso, the outcome of the Vatican conference in year 2016, organized together with theUnited Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and theInternational Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committeeand many other sport and faith-based institutions.
On that occasion, it was October, 2016, Pope Francis invited all to work together to promote positive values, inspire youth and contribute to thebetterment of humanity through sport, particularlybringing to life this six-principles declaration.
Now, we all participateat many conferences and it is easy to speak about values.
But what is the real challengeis to live up to these values and to teach others tolive up to these values.
So, this initial call from Pope Francis has grown and flourished through a series of initiatives and wecontinue to strive towards the use of sport forcultivating inclusion, driving social change, and reaching our potential and develop potential in life.
The idea at the core of these conferences was to combine twosources, faith and sport.
Two words that do not alwaysdialogue with each other.
Religious faith representsfor many, for us, the core values that links usto our ultimate fundamental of existence, to our eternal destination, transcendent eternal destination.
Sport, at the same time, offers the means of personal development and achievement along the path to that destination.
Sport challenges us togive the best of ourselves.
That’s the title of theVatican document on sport.
Faith communities and sportinstitutions working together and uniting resources, canmake a real difference, becoming an inspiration for personal life.
Creating more inclusivecommunities, open to all.
And offering up anopportunity for involvement to strive for a better society.
Okay, so many words, many words.
Over these days, I wouldlike to challenge each of us to think of and commit to oneconcrete action we will take when we leave that will carry the message of the conference toward our lives.
So to avoid that thisconference becomes a nice event that ends here or aconference that sets the path to another conference wherethe same people gather and meet, but for real change.
And finally, I would liketo thank all organizers, partners, participants at this conference and particularly Georgetown University, his president, JackDegioia and all the staff for making this gathering possible.
Thank you to all.
And good work.
(audience applause) – Melchor, thank you very much indeed.
And Melchor very pointedly setthe scene for a moment there.
We have set the room up, as you can see, for a particular reason.
And it’s not for a cabaret later, it’s because you’re gonnabe put to work, to a degree.
We’re looking for those calls to action.
And to explain how this isall gonna come together, Eugenie Dieck is with us.
Eugenie is the Vice President of Strategy here at Georgetown Universityand she is in charge.
So, listen up.
Come on up.
– All right.
Monsignor said to us, “Let’scommit to a concrete action.
” So what I’m gonna lay outfor you is how we’re going to work through the day to do that.
If you, don’t do this yet, but later, look in your materials and you will see a worksheet and a pen.
So no excuses.
Okay, and what we want you to do is as we go through the majorportions of the presentations and discussions today, is to reflect.
Because we believe through reflection, we will be called to action.
And so we’re going toask you to think about what did you learn from the discussion, What additional questions you have, and what action shouldfollow in each of these.
And then at the end of the day, we’re going to haveconversations in small groups around these major discussions of the day and you’ll be asked just to pick one, go to, so we’ll huddle in corners, and have a discussionabout a call to action from that group so that we go forward, knowing that we arehonored to be here today and responsible to take the work of today out into the world.
(audience applause) – Eugenia, thanks very much indeed.
We have in our midst, as Jack said, we have someone who’s flown in from Tokyo to be with us today, and you may know, some of you may not.
There’s been a significant event in Japan in the last few weeks, it’s the Rugby World Cup, which has been staged togreat acclaim, I should add.
Sir John Key, former PrimeMinister of New Zealand was there, obviouslysupporting New Zealand, the All Blacks, recognized by many as the greatest teamin sport in the world.
I was a little bit uncomfortableabout having to meet up with Sir John again, because England are obviously the greatestsports team (laughter) in the world and that was proven as they beat New Zealand in the World Cup.
However, however, humblepie, because we were then thrashed by SouthAfrica in the final.
So, no one emerges as a winner, but we can stay friends, I think, Sir John.
Just very briefly, to say Sir John is in sporting parlance, a serial winner.
He won three elections onthe bounce in New Zealand and was Prime Ministerthrough the best part of a decade in the process, 2008 to ’16.
I won’t go through thelist of the, excuse me, things he was responsible for, in some very challenging times, some humanitarian challenges as well, within thecountry, but he represented and he represents still, a country where, I would say sport lies, in a way, at the bedrock of the community of thepeople of New Zealand.
And it is a uniting force, I think it’s fair to say.
And to me, Sir John typifies that.
He is also, I should pointout, a representative for ISPS Handa Foundation, who’s a global patron for Sport at the Service of Humanity, partner and supporter ofGeorgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the World Space Development Dialogue.
Sir John, it’s lovely to see you again, and I’m delighted topass the floor to you.
(audience applause) – David, thanks so muchfor that introduction.
I must admit, I come this morning feeling like a three-time loser, because having come fromthe Rugby World Cup, I was there to cheer themighty All Blacks on, who managed to lose, asDavid said, to England.
Then, having thought that noone could beat the All Blacks, England not only did, I thoughtI’d better cheer for them, and they lost and thenI’m a third-time loser because having arrived yesterdayand deliberately trying to go to bed a littlebit later, about 11:30, I somehow stupidly managedto leave my phone on and given I live in New Zealand, someone thought it was a great idea to ring me at about 1:30, 2:00.
So sport might be atthe service of humanity, but it was also at my servicesas I watched the Golf Channel at 2:00 in the morning.
So, that’s the way we roll at the moment.
I will just simply pointout that in the nine years I was Prime Minister, wenever lost a Rugby World Cup, when I was Prime Minister, I’m just, you know.
Never lost a World Cupgame, in fact, in the time that I was Prime Minister, soyou know, I don’t wanna take sole credit for the AllBlacks, but why not, when you’re out of politics, you grab everything you can.
Can I just begin byacknowledging President Degioia, and on the Monsignors, all of the dignitaries that are in the room.
It’s a great group and it’s fantastic to be here at Georgetown.
Catherine’s been sayingto me for some time I should come and learn a little more about the campus and be here.
So, it’s fantastic to be here.
In a way, Sport at the Service of Humanity sits at the heart ofsomething I started doing soon after I retired in 2017, because as David mentioned, I’m patron for a number of the foundations for Dr.
Handa, who’s a very, very well-known Japanese philanthropist.
Handa is an interesting guy.
He really sits at the heart ofthe theme of your conference, because he believes in the powerof sport to transform lives and to see the good inpeople, and he’s been, really, the, I think, theleading proponent in the world of blind and disabled golf.
But he wants to use sportas one of his foundations to do great good around the world.
And so in 2010, when I was Prime Minister, we had the terribleChristchurch earthquakes, claimed the lives of 187 people, really shocked the second largest city in New Zealand to its very core.
Handa, who had beenpretty involved actually in Australia, but notso much in New Zealand, decided he really wantedto demonstrate to the world that Christchurch was backopen for business again and what better way to do that than sponsor a golf tournament, the New Zealand Women’sOpen, and amongst others, Lydia Ko, who’s a veryfamous New Zealand golfer, came back from the tour toplay in it and win the event.
And in a way, it wasjust really trying to use the power of sport to buildthe strength of humanity and the city that was shaken to, I’d say, its very roots and foundation.
I kinda thought in my opening remarks, I mean, you have a lot to think about in the next couple of day, but really, I supposed two challenges maybe, just to dwell on as you spend your time.
And one is that we know welive in a divided world, and that’s very evident.
But one of the interesting questions is can sport help bridge that division? And then second was really can the skills that we learn throughsport help us translate into building a more collective and inclusive view of humanity? Can we learn from those who excel if we are alongside them, oreven if we just support them? We know the world is a very divided place.
Quite tragically, in NewZealand, the early part of this year, some of you, maybe all of you will know that we had a terrible shootingfrom a white supremist guy who took with a machinegun to the followers of a number of mosques, again, around Christchurch, and killed 51 people, so really, the worst gun violence attackwe had had in New Zealand, probably for a very, very long time indeed.
So we know the worldis divided from people who have some very sickand disturbing views.
And in fact, one of thethings I spend a lot of time talking about in New Zealand, because we’re a very multi-cultural, multi-denomination country actually, New Zealand was all the good that actually came outof the Muslim faith, often, actually misunderstood, I think, by some leaders aroundthe world and others.
But again, if you wannalook at that division, only a week, I guess, ago, the leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi, took his own life.
But there was a person who believed that if you couldn’t follow his vision of his faith, then you didn’t deserve to have a place on the planet.
So we know it’s a very divided world.
Sometimes for religiousreasons and views of others.
I think we know on ahuman rights perspective, it’s a very divided world.
Certainly not all countries are equal.
And we know from a gender perspective, although tremendous gains have been made, and again in New Zealand, I like to think we’re the country that firstgave women the chance to vote.
At every level, and they, ourcountry, from Prime Ministers to Governor General, to the largest company to the Chief Justice, all those positions have been occupied onseveral occasions by women.
But we know that division is there, still, in many countries.
And actually, in recent times, I’m a bit saddened to say, because I’m a massivefan of globalization.
There’s been a realdivision, I think, coming through anti-globalization, if there’s such a word, in that sort of fortress mentality view, where we’re starting to taste, sadly, I think, actually, through some of the thinkingsof the current U.
President about whether the basis oforganizations like United Nations and others, soundly sort of hold.
We certainly know froma cultural perspective, we live in quite a divided world.
And we know from theexpectations of democracy in countries that again is divided.
So I guess, if you look at that world and you sit here and you say, “We can see all the challenges.
” Can sport play a role, actually, in bridging those divisions? And what do we learn about ourselves when we engage in sport, at any level, from the most significantlevel of participation at professional sport rightthrough to the young person that just engages in the clubor whatever they might do.
I think the first thing we learn is that hard work translatesinto better results.
I’m a bit of a golf(mumbles), so you’ll excuse me if I quote a few golfers, but Lee Trevino was very famous as a golferfor saying he was lucky.
And the more he practiced, the luckier he got.
And I think we learn ata sport that hard work really does and can change your life.
I think we learn at a sport, actually, that winning feels good, but actually, funny enough, we learn more when we lose often in sport than we do out of winning, and that’s certainly something that we can take into our daily lives.
We have to learn, actually, at the capacity to one has to come with an acceptance that you sometimes lose.
I think we learn through sportthe enormous health benefits that’s there for everyone to see, that you just feel betterand you live longer and you have all sorts of great things that come out of that andyou certainly learn teamwork.
And I think through sport, one of the ways that it helps to serve, in terms of a better sense of humanity is now, because it’s global and as we mentioned, justcame from the Rugby World Cup.
Next year, Japan is the host of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
And you just can’t helpbut go to a country that maybe, I’ve beenthere on lots of occasions, but there were lots ofguests that would have come to Japan who knewnothing about the country from a cultural perspective, nothing about its people, probably very little about its history, certainly nothing about its language, but through the powerof sport, they learned that there was probably alot that they had in common.
And it allows you to humanize, I think, what can be, in some countries, very abstract concepts.
And I think one of the interestingthings around the world, you see, I’m massive globalist and I, New Zealand’s been in the forefront of leading trade deals around the world.
In fact, in my time, whenI was Prime Minister, along with PresidentObama, we really tried to drive trade specificpartnership as a trade idea, but the reason I liketrade, other than I think it actually lifts people out of poverty and it helps generate increased wealth for everyone involved, ’causeI think it’s a well-known fact that when countries trade together and when they economically are combined, they’re far less likely tobe involved in conflict.
In fact, one of the basisof the European Foundation, really is that countrieswanna be part of Europe, because they believe historically, when they haven’t been socombined, they’ve engaged in world wars that have taken place.
And I think sport can do the same thing.
I think at Cambridge, that division.
And you look at some ofthe most frostiest of times between the United Statesand the old U.
, that was a time where all sorts of challenges were in placeon the political perspective but we still saw the UnitedStates and the U.
competing at ice hockey or at baseball.
And trying again, I thinkit’d be an understanding.
And I certainly think that one of the ways that it builds a strongerhumanity is through tolerance.
There’s a city, Dr.
Handa’s been very vocal, very generous, very involved, actually, in blind and disabledgolf, which conceptually, think about is quite adifficult thing to do.
The concept of the game, actually is to see the ball go in the hole.
So if you’re blind, it’s notthe easiest thing in the world, but what actually he’staught me, but I think what it does teach you, through the power of sport, actually, is to judge people not on what they can’t do, but what they can do.
And I think that’s a very, very powerful concept.
So, his ability, I think, to bridge and unite.
Can it, I think, resolve every issue? I mean, we’re here todaytalking about sport and its place in humanity.
And the answer is absolutely not.
But it is one fit, does it help? In my opinion, yes it does.
Partly, I think, actually, because we live in a world that’s full of propaganda.
It’s full of mess and it’s fullof misinformation, actually.
And what sport does, actually, is allow people, I think, to have experienceswith real people, to hear real stories and tojudge each for themselves, actually, about what acountry might be like or what its people might be like.
And I think within that, you actually see some of the most touching stories in sport and not the person that’swinning the gold medal.
But it’s the act of kindness of somebody that in the marathon picksup somebody who’s collapsing and sacrifices their own place on the dais to help somebody in the moment of sort of a real trauma for them.
So I think through that sport, you can build a much stronger humanity.
And part, actually, the reason for that is because sport doesn’t have a language.
Sport isn’t tied up in a lotof ancient sort of history.
It’s not guarded by historical borders.
It is what it is.
Something which collectively, around the world, people can understand and associate with.
So, I think just tofinish, what I would say is we all strive to live in the world, which is a bitter world andin its most basic point, it can be traced back toMeslo’s hierarchy of needs.
But it’s a pretty low standard, in a way.
I mean, it’s a standard thatcertainly isn’t achieved around the world, inevery country, but food and shelter are a sortof basic starting point.
But actually, we wanna live in a world that has a sense of humanity, which is much greater than that.
It’s one where we live in a world that’s dominated, hopefully, by peace.
And by kindness, as Ithink is to my right.
Where people can live and haveopportunities for betterment and a sense actually that theycan change their own lives, where they get joy from their own families and where they’re judged, notby the color of their skin or by their gender or bytheir religious beliefs, but actually by theiractions and by their deeds.
And I think that’s the very point, that sport sort of at onelevel humanizes all of us, it brings us togetherand it actually grows, I think, building blocksof a much stronger nation and world, whether it’s because we support the university basketball team, whether it’s because we supportthe town or the local club, whether it’s for theregion that we live in, whether it’s the countrythat we associate with, or whether it’s because we’re interested in sport at a global perspective.
And as I said, next year, Japan will host the 2020 Olympic Games, In a sense, in my view, it’s sport’s version of the United Nations.
Countries come together tocompete against each other to show the world their athletes.
But actually, it’s a lot more than that.
It’s, like the United Nations, is a place where people can come together.
Hopefully, to see the good in others, to learn a little more about others and to see for themselves thatthe world is a stronger place when we are united in one forum.
And I think if sport can play that role, as I said, I don’t thinkit can solve every problem, I don’t think it is thepanacea to every issue, but can it build a stronger humanity? Does it have a place wherewe can all want to attest as better, in my view, youcan be the judge of that, but I think unquestionably yes.
And when you watch theSummer Olympics next year, be a judge of whether theworld is a better place for that forum or a worse one? I for one will be votingit’s a better place.
Thank you very much.
(audience applause) – John, thanks to you, very much indeed for your very wise words there.
You mentioned identity near the end, which, again, I think that’swhat sport does offer.
It creates an identity.
Can I just ask in the room, how many of you here have been to New Zealand? A good few of you.
I would recommend it.
It’s a wonderful place to go.
You’ll be glad that Imade that plug, John.
You also once described it, I think, as it’s like England, butwithout the attitude.
(audience laughs) Which, and better weather, which is also probably true.
That is a great platform for us to move on to our first panel session, the title of which is”Reflecting on Sports “and Engaging with Questions of Value.
” So the first thing I’d like to do it’s great, all ranged upat the back, ready to go.
Can I ask our panelists and our moderator, please come up and join us.
(audience applause) So, reflecting on sports and engaging with questions of values, asthey do so, come right on up.
Great to see you.
Victor, nice to see you.
Hi Christine, very niceto meet you, you too.
So, please take a seat.
My job is very simple.
Because I’m gonna behanding this over to Paul in just a moment, but let me very briefly introduce our panelists, and you can wave vigorously when your name is mentioned.
Michael Serazio, AssociateProfessor at Boston College, Michael’s written a very, well, among other things, very interesting bookon “The Power of Sports: “Media and Spectacle in American Culture.
” Michael, thanks very much for joining us.
Victor Cha is Professorand Vice Dean for Faculty and Graduate Affairs and isauthor of, well, many books, in fact, a concentrationof expertise here, across Asia, in particular, relations between South Korea, Japan, China and ratherbeautifully in context of our panel session here, the author of “Beyond the Final Score:the Politics of Sport in Asia” And Christine Brennan, youdon’t need to wave, really, Christine, I think it’s, and one of the most, well, I say outstandingand recognizable faces in American sports journalism, Christine has covered, am I right in saying everyOlympic games since LA ’84? She has stamina.
– [Christine] I started when I was 10.
– Down a bit, down a bit.
Christine’s worked for MiamiHerald, Washington Post, USA Today as a columnist now.
Very familiar on virtuallyall the major U.
networks as well as a commentator and analyst and a very powerful voice for inclusion as the first president of the Association for Women in Sports Media.
And thank you very much for joining us.
Paul Elie, I’m gonna hand over to you, senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
Again, it’s these biographies are sort of so simplistic, it’s untrue, but Paul has contributed on so many differentareas, which include issues of Bach, to the Saints of Self Help to publications of his, not to mention “The Life You Share May Be Your Own: “An American Pilgrimage.
” Paul, thank you very much for agreeing to moderate this panel.
I hand it over to you.
– Thank you very much, Sir John.
And thank you to MonsignorMelchor and President Degioia and to everyone else who’staken a role in convening us.
It’s quite a privilege tobe here and to have you and everyone else hereon the Georgetown campus for this event.
It’s often said, not just in Washington, that politics is our religion.
It’s also often said, especially lately, that politics has taken on some of the characteristics of sport.
Just yesterday, the NewYork Times ran a piece setting out Adam Schiff’sgame plan for the public phase of the impeachment process.
So is it possible, by sometransitive property of metaphor to say that religion is our sport? I hope not.
But it is possible toreflect on the fact that in many ways, sport couldbe said to be something like our religion, to have aspects that overlap with religion.
Reflection on ritual andsymbolism, involvement of culture, the participation of peopleacross national borders, questions of values, questions of how those values are communicated in wider society.
With that in mind, I’d like to just try to stay out of the way andinvite our three panelists to speak briefly tothe issue of reflecting on sports and engaging onwith questions of values.
They can say anything theywant but I’d like to open with Michael Serazio, discussing the relationship of sports and religion andthen turn to Christine Brannon, who can engage with the questionof how sport and politics, especially, have cometogether domestically.
Christine said the otherday that to discuss sports and values now is like drivingon a 12-lane superhighway.
It’s just incredibly complicated.
And then to Victor Cha, whocan speak to the question of sport and politics andvalues internationally.
Well, first off, let mejust offer my thanks as well to President Degioia, to Father Mark Bosco, to Joe Ferrara, Erin Hudson, to our moderator, Paul Elie, my fellow panelists, and all those involved in making this event possible today.
For the generous invitation.
It’s really very, very humbling to be a part of the speakers today.
And I truly believe thatthe conference theme could not be more timely and topical, for serving humanity isthe greatest contribution that sport can make toour lives and our culture.
It needs to do this.
Because sport takes a great deal from us.
Globally, the industry is worth somewhere between $200 billion and $700 billon, depending on who’s counting.
Tickets, broadcast rights, sponsorship, apparel, facilities.
In many ways, I would argue sports makes us act fundamentally, economically irrationally, whether that be taxpayerfinancing of stadia or even more simply, buyinga pair of branded sneakers.
Why, though, do we worship at the altar of sports myth when it costs so much? The answer, and theesoteric essence of fandom might be found at an altarof a very different sort.
One far removed from sports.
Emile Durkheim I believehas some answers for us.
He was the pioneeringsociologist who wrote in the wake of the IndustrialRevolution a century ago.
An age that tore aparttraditional communities and fraded individuals withwhat he called social anomie, that feeling of disorder and alienation that still plagues our modern world.
Yet to understand how people could ideally be stitched together bya collective conscience, he had to go back to religionin its simplest form, where he excavated a profound, efficient conclusion.
Whenever a group or societyworships a divine form, it is, in fact, alsosimultaneously worshiping itself.
Religion is not then justabout the cosmic order.
It’s about social order.
Religious totems, whileofficially symbolizing deities, implicitly offer vessels for fellowship, licenses to congregate together.
There’s something universal and enduring in that tribal yearning.
We need it still today, desperately.
Yet, much of the Western world has profoundly secularizedover the centuries.
Today, nearly 60 millionAmericans count themselves as religiously unaffiliated.
And formal faith no longer defines reality and forms the basis of identity and community as it once did.
Sports culture, I wouldargue, helps fill that vacuum.
It articulates the language of belief.
It furnishes homilies of moral judgment.
It structures systems of meeting making and it paves pathways to transcendence.
Sports culture simulatesthe human experience, long derived from faith, when many are formally divorced from it.
More than one quarterof all Americans believe that God has some role indetermining who wins a game.
Another quarter have prayedto God to help their team.
And more than half think thatGod rewards athletes of faith with success and health.
Through sports, we think, feel and act spiritually.
What totems, therefore, survive and persist in contemporary American culture? Even as religion’s centrality wanes, and fewer collective practicesyoke tribes together.
The Red Sox.
The All Blacks.
And so on.
That’s more essential thanever, in an era of deep, cultural fragmentationand communal breakdown, when we’ve lost faith in allmanner of public institutions.
Information cocoons filterout contrary representations of ideological reality.
Political polarization charts new depths of hatred and disgust.
Yet, we also have entertainment cocoons that define our time.
Smart phone distractions that seclude us, alone together in social settings.
The algorithmic targeting of pop content that splintered taste beyond Blockbusters, once broadly cast to mass audiences.
And the bewildering complexity of today’s best TV contentrepels casual consumption, and therefore common conversation.
You can’t simply drop inon The Game of Thrones, season finale without massivetime investment beforehand, and in my case, Wikipedia and a notepad.
Game seven of the NBAfinals is considerably less befuddling, even if youdidn’t catch the previous six.
In short, peak TV is great for art.
Less so for widespread social communion.
Sports, on the other hand, still offers the glue of collective conscience, that the acid of modern life has otherwise dissolved.
In large part, this is because sports tells us what time it is.
They anchor players and fansalike in the present moment, concentrating a vast shared psychic energy on events unfolding before us right now.
They orient observers, synchronize schedules, coordinate collectivity.
Last year’s sports made up 89 of the top 100 most watched TV programs and they are the biggest reason that your cable bills have exploded.
Being in the moment is incrediblyvaluable for advertisers in a time-shifted ageof DVR and streaming.
But it’s also existentiallycritical for the rest of us, living through asynchronous, post-modernity, when people seek mindfulness individually and co-presence sociallyagainst the onslaught of distraction and multi-tasking.
Unlike most all forms ofentertainment and pop cultures, sports resists being on demand.
It instead demands of youco-presence with others at specifically scheduled intersections.
They’re called Manchester United, not Manchester Atomized, for a reason.
There’s something sacredin that communal immediacy, that ephemeral ecstasyof everyone seeming to be on the same page as thescroll of history unfolds.
The most people in thehistory of humankind to share the sameexperience at the same time are audiences for recentinternational sporting events.
Former NBA Commissioner, David Stern, told me this when I interviewed himfor my last book, quote, “As life gets more impersonal, as we retreat into our homes “and we do a tremendousamount from the comfort “of our smart devices, in a chair at home, “the last places thatpeople are likely to gather, “are going to be houses of worship “and houses of sports worship.
” I agree.
Indeed, it might be thatmost basic of human dreads, mortality, that drives us intothe arms of sports community.
This might explain my late grandfather’s San Diego Chargers hat, sitting on the mantel of my aunt’s fireplace.
In one intriguingexperiment, researchers found that when prompted to think about death, fans expressed even greater hope and faith that their teams would win it all, suggesting that we are driven to associate with its institutions andcultural groups that live on to help cope with the persistent, anxiety-inducing finitudeof our own existence.
In that sense, it doesn’treally matter whether our favorite team wins orloses on the field of play.
As long as the sportstotem survives, so do we.
And with that, I’ll passit over to you, Christine.
– Thank you.
Well, it’s great to be here.
Thank you so much to allof you here at Georgetown for inviting us andinviting me to be here.
A big shout out to Katy Button, who started the emailchain with me, and Erin, who’s back there somewhere, organizing all of us.
Thank you for everything you’ve done.
To my friends at Georgetown, and been in town since 1984, what a wonderful campus, and what a great legacy you provide to this city, obviously to the country and the world.
So, it’s an honor for me to be here with this wonderful panel.
Thank you, thank you so much.
I love this topic.
This is basically thetopic of, that I guess, the best description maybe of my job, or the jobs that I hold now, and that is sports is culture.
You know, there was a day whenwe saw sports as an escape.
You know how you would grabfor the sports section, and already now, I’vedated myself and all of us in this room, talking aboutgrabbing for a sports section.
And thank you to thoseof you who still do.
But you take that sports section, and I guess it would pertain and go to your iPhone or iPad andclick on sports at wherever, whatever destination you preferand it would be an escape.
It would take you somewherethat the A section of the newspaper did not.
And of course, what hashappened now and no apologies, and in fact, I think it’s a good thing, but it is an interestingprogression that we have made, what’s happened now, of course, is that the sports section is no longer an escape, butit is a mirror of our society.
And when you grab that sports section, other than say a week ago, where you certainly saw a lot of sports in terms ofbaseball and the World Series in this town, which isstill unbelievable to me, that the Nationals pulled that off.
But there are days, of course, when it is just fun and games.
But so much of those sportssections and those stories and those pages, thoseheadlines, that you read, whether it’s in print or online, those stories are aboutmuch more than sports.
And whether it’s contract negotiations, whether it’s an athlete ora coach being suspended, whether it’s steroids, whether it’s the horrors of USA gymnastics andthe Larry Nassar story, the Penn State story of a fewyears ago, Jerry Sandusky, on and on it goes, discipline, negotiations, fights, confusion, concern in sports, whatever it might be, that’s where we are.
And I’m sure there aresome of you in this room that are lamenting the factthat this is where we are.
That are wishing for other days.
Those old days, the good olddays, when we didn’t know that Babe Ruth, a million years ago now, that Babe Ruth was runningaround, chasing women through a train andeveryone was half naked and the sports writerswho were playing poker at the table, looked up andsaw Babe Ruth running through and can you imagine now? The iPhone pictures andthe tweets and Babe Ruth would probably, his career would be over by the next morning.
And so it’s a great question.
It’s a question I ask myself all the time.
Are we better of, werewe better off not knowing about Babe Ruth or MickeyMantle or you name it? Or are we better off knowing? And obviously, you have ajournalist sitting in front of you and I of course, will100 times out of 100, say we are better off knowing.
And knowledge is power.
And frankly, as consumers, and Michael, you’re, it was fascinating what yousaid, and how you described it.
I thought it was just pitch-perfect.
And I learned a lot as wellfrom what you just said.
As consumers, I would make the case that you would want to know these things.
You know, is the shortstop or the third baseman or the center fielder, who you’re cheering for, was he suspended lastyear for steroid use? That can obviously helpyou make a decision on where you wanna spend your money.
Do you wanna buy tickets? Do you want to take your kidsand cheer that person on? The answer, often, is yes, because then sports reverts back to that escape and I understand this too, that the last thing youwanna hear, if you’ve decided to go to a Orioles, Nats game, wherever, any sporting event, Mystics game, Georgetownmen’s, women’s hoops, whatever, the last thing you want issomeone like me tapping you on the shoulder, obviouslyfiguratively, not literally, and saying “Hey, you knowthat person out there, they were cheating and this one and that coach has had three.
” Right? You want the escape.
You, for those from seveno’clock to 10 o’clock at night, you would like to escape the real world and enjoy a sporting event.
And that is the push-pull.
That’s what I see allthe time on social media.
Really? Do we have to know everything? Do we have to discuss everything? And as a journalist, I wouldsay, “I’ll give it to you.
“If you decide to useit in your calculations, “fine and if you don’t, that’s fine too.
” But I would make the casethat you certainly wanna know if a car is being recalled.
You’ve put your money into that.
So why wouldn’t younecessarily want to know what’s going on in sports andhave all this information? I could make the case, also that we are now in an era of over-coverage.
Certainly, we have, Idon’t know if you can ever have too much information, but if you can, we’re there with socialmedia, with journalists mixing with citizenjournalists, and everyone else with an iPhone or a camera, or using their iPhone camera, and those are interestingdiscussions, and we may well wanna talk more about that.
I also, we were chatting, about that superhighway.
So, as I’ve coveredsports, and I’ve covered far more men’s sports than women’s sports, but I’m kind of known for someone who has covered women’s sportsand those issues, proudly so.
Title IX, I think the most important law in our country the last 50 years.
I know there’s a lot ofcompetition for that honor, but I would say that we haven’t even begun to see the value, just starting to see it, but in terms of leadershipfor women, Congress, Senate, women running for president, going into the 20s, 30s and 40s, running our universities, running our businesses, our nation.
I think the common denominatorfor all those women, who might be some of them you’ve seen in your kitchen everymorning for 18 years, all those women, the common denominator will be that they playedsports because of Title IX.
And learned those life lessonsabout winning and losing at a young age throughteamwork and sportsmanship.
And I just, I really thinkTitle IX will change the way this nation is run, is built, is led, over the next half century or so.
We haven’t even, as I said, begun to see the magnitude of what Title IX will bring to this nation, thistidal wave of Title IX.
But sports as culturereally has become my thing.
And so where sports and culture meet, as I said, is this12-lane superhighway now.
And the president is there, certainly the Washington Nationals going to the White House and I’ve covered those visits for 30 years.
The first time that I’ve ever seen a team actually bring partisanpolitics into that, with Kurt Suzuki wearing theMake America Great Again hat.
Not making a statement on that at all, but just the fact thatthe Nationals did that was very, very interesting.
And in this town, of course, in this city, with DC and NorthernVirginia and Maryland, obviously being very, very blue.
Just a fascinating business decision.
And why the Nats allowed that to happen and let a player do that, again, whatever your political persuasion.
I’ve never seen it before.
No one showed up at a BillClinton Olympic team rally with a Monica Lewinsky hat, right? Or at a Obama thing with apro Obama or against Obama.
Maybe someone, maybe an athlete did show up with a hat or a placard or a pin or a t-shirt and anadult would have probably just swooped in and taken that away.
And the Nats did notdo that to Kurt Suzuki.
And that is a fascinating conversation, especially in a town that is so well-read.
And so smart and people are so aware, as Washingtonians in the area are.
So these are the kind ofissues that I delve into, proudly so, as a journalist.
I’m thrilled to be a part of this panel, and able to discuss those issues, and the last point I’ll just make is that sports takes us to national conversations, as you were alluding to, Michael, that frankly, I think sports helps us with those national conversations.
So the Larry Nassar, U.
Well, a whole differentaudience was exposed to that, because it was about sports.
And then of course, aboutso much more than sports.
And we’re talking about it, though, as sports journalists.
And who’s reading about itwho might never have read about that issue in another forum? The same thing with JerrySandusky and those horrors.
And I keep mentioning terriblethings, but these issues, when sports takes us there, I think we’re all better off as a community, as a country, as a world, to have others who mightnot have been included, but they’re sports fansor they’re readers, or consumers of sportsand now they’re part of that conversation that is so important, not just for sports, butof course, for our culture.
– Thank you.
(audience applause) – Thanks Paul.
So I, too, wanna express my gratitude.
It’s a real pleasure to be here.
Thank President Degioia forthis wonderful opportunity.
I’m actually very thrilled to be here, but I’m a little bit embarrassed, because I’m kind of aninterloper on this topic.
My area is actually US National Security and I came into this discussion of sports and politics just by chance.
I returned to the universityafter the university grant made me a public service lead.
I worked at the National Security Council at the White House for three years, working largely on nuclear weapons issues.
And I was one of our negotiators for the last nuclear agreement, or DenuclearizationAgreement with North Korea.
I came back to the campusand I got inundated by requests from publishersand from news organizations to write a book about North Korea.
And I said, “I’ve been workingon this issue for three years “the last thing I wanna do is write “a book about it right now.
” Instead, I said, “I wanna write a book “about sports and politics, “’cause this was at the time when we were gonna havethe Olympics in Beijing.
So, I became veryinterested in this topic.
And I find it infinitely more fascinating than denuclearization, nuclear weapons, nuclear security, so let mejust tell you what I think about this issue and then we can have a general conversation.
So in the book that I wrote, I talked about the relationship betweensports and national identity, sports and diplomacy, andsports and development, how hosting sportingevents, like the Olympics, can really change the entire face of the cities that host these things.
But what I wanna focus on, zero, sort of drill down on thismorning is sports and values.
As Michael has talkedabout, and as our initially opening speakers talkedabout, and what strikes me about sports and values is that sports in many ways embodies, sortof the classic liberal values.
I mean, it’s about transparency.
Everybody knows the rules.
It’s about fair play.
It’s about inclusion, right? It doesn’t matter what your religion is, what the color of your skinis, and it’s about merit.
It’s all about the best performance wins.
And so what’s interesting to me about that is that when you have, whenyou look at the dynamics of those sorts of valuesthat sports embodies, and they come intocontact with host nations or host cities or markets, that are politically run by governments thatdon’t hold those values, and so how do those twothings come together? And the case in particularthat I’ve been looking at recently is of course, the NBA and China.
And as many of you know, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, while they were, the NBA was playing, the Houston Rockets was playing an exhibition game in Asia, re-tweeted a statement about standing with the protesters in Hong Kong.
The protesters were seeking autonomy from the government in China.
And the Chinese respondedvery negatively to that.
They demanded that Daryl Morey be fired.
They removed all HoustonRockets sporting paraphernalia from the web and from stores.
And they blacked out allHouston Rockets games.
And the reaction by the NBAwas to immediately pull down Daryl Morey’s tweet, toapologize for what had happened, and while the NBA hassaid, “We still believe “in freedom of expression, “I think both the NBA and the agents of the playershave basically executed an implicit gag order on NBA players, don’t say anything aboutthe politics of China.
And so on the one hand, you can understand the business reason behind this.
The NBA is a over $4billion market in China.
Basketball is the numberone sport in China today.
There are as many, if not more, people who play basketball in China than there areAmericans in the United States.
And there are over 600million people in China watched an NBA game in the last season, which is, that’s pretty astounding.
The Chinese emerging middleclass market for the NBA is larger than the entirepopulation of the United States.
So you can see the businessreasons behind this.
At the same time, though, you know, maybe, I’m not really certainthat this is the answer.
Because for the NBA toshut themselves down because China is leveraging their market for political purposes isvery similar in practice to what China has done in other cases.
So in Norway, when theNobel Peace Prize committee gave the Nobel Peace Prize toa Chinese political dissident, China unilaterally stopped theimport of Norwegian salmon.
They didn’t stop salmon from Scotland, they just stopped salmon from Norway.
When they got into thedispute with the Philippines, they stopped the importof Philippine bananas.
When they got into adispute with South Korea, they focused on one particularSouth Korean company, and caused it to have over $2billion in commercial losses.
So, this is a practicethat we’ve seen before.
But I think maybe the NBA might, I mean, China may have met its match in the NBA.
Because the big difference between the NBA and Norwegian salmon is Chinesepeople don’t really care if they don’t eat Norwegian salmon.
They really do care if theycan’t watch the NBA on TV.
And so to me, it’s avery interesting dynamic, because on the one hand, there clearly are business decisions why the NBA chooses to do what it’s done with regard to political comments by NBA players.
On the other hand, onthis particular issue, China may have, is executing the same sort of strategy they’ve executed in the past, but they may have bit offmore than they can chew.
I’m not saying that NBAplayers should go out and be political, they should not.
I mean, they should notgo out and be political.
There is, as much as we like to try to maintain a separationbetween sports and politics, as Christine and Michael said, you cannot, you cannot really pull those things apart.
However, if there is aplayer or an individual who makes a statement, as a human being, about what they seehappening in another place, the NBA shouldn’t shut that down.
They should allow these people to speak.
Morey tweeted on his personal account.
He didn’t tweet on aHouston Rockets account.
These are personal views, expressed by people as human beings about what is happening inanother part of the world.
And that is a very positive thing.
And that is somethingthat we should embrace.
It’s not something thatwe should try to reject.
(audience applause) – Thank you, Victor, andthanks to all three of you.
Just listening to you speak, I realize my own status as an amateur, but I alsorealize that an amateur is respected in the world of sports.
So let me just try torun a connecting thread through your remarks and inviteeach of you to pick it up, beginning with Christine, I hope.
What strikes me is the way each of you has proposed that the factthat no one can separate sport from culture andvalues, is a good thing.
And necessary thing.
I’m with you on that.
As a journalist, of course, we should always know more and we don’t wanna goback to those old days.
The discussion about the NBA and China was a necessary discussionand one that’s ongoing.
And the forces of unity and community that are offered by sports are real.
All that said, I kept hearingthe Marxist word, opiate.
Marx called religion theopiate of the people.
And there, I’d like toat least counter-propose that there’s an elementof sort of surrogacy in the place that sportsoccupies in society today, that necessary as it is todiscuss some domestic violence among athletes, that there’sonly so many hours in the day and in some respects, thatdisplaces other conversations that could happen that, asnecessary as the discussion about the NBA and China was, that we wound up talking about the free speechrights of NBA players and owners rather than about the rights of people in Hong Kongto self-determination.
Yes, we all stop our livesto watch a sporting event, but is that real community? Manchester United iscalled Manchester United, but that’s because various smaller clubs in Manchester got together as one club.
And there’s another clubin town called City.
That the idea of unity ispretty thin, if you push at it.
So with that in mind, canwe just go back down the row and can you engage with that proposal that true as all this is, thatit’s taking up a space that maybe could betaken up by other things.
– Well, I could certainly make the case that sports has gotten too big, right? And what you’re saying, I mean, that’s kind of a little bit of a corollary of, I think, what you’re saying, because in some ways, we wanna enjoy sports, like can we just have fun with it? I do think there’s somethingfor everyone, right? If you wanna focus on LeBronJames, and I did a column on his comments, which Ithought were atrocious.
You can focus on that.
If you wanna just focus onthe start of the NBA season, of course, you can choose that.
The old days of having three channels and everyone watching MaryTyler Moore on Saturday night, everyone talking aboutit Monday at school, or Happy Days, right? We don’t have those days anymore.
So now you can pick and choose, so I’m not so sure that I’m concerned that the space is so fullbecause someone else, I’m sure some of you atthe table would be totally into this conversation about the NBA, say.
Or about Kurt Suzuki wearing the MAGA hat.
And then I’m sure some of you are just let’s relive game seven, right? Or Suzuki’s amazing homerun or whatever it was.
You know what I’m saying.
And so there’s something for everyone.
But my first comment thatI made back to you, Paul, was that I think sports has gotten, it’s big as it shouldbe because it’s as big as what our society wants.
It will change and morph as we want it.
My concern, if you letit trickle down to say, the high school, the kidlevel, the club level, which is something wereally haven’t touched on, but that’s probably wheresports really is in most of the lives of us in this room.
Your children, yourgrandchildren’s sports, the question ofspecialization, of club play, of parents, I’m sure no one in this room, but of parents believing their child is a winning lottery ticket.
And this is what I have covered so much.
So again, instead of taking your, I’m taking now a left orright turn from your question, but I’ve seen it over andover, ladies and gentlemen, in gymnastics and figureskating and tennis, where we put young people, mostly young girls, in the case of those sports, they’re on the discard pile before they get their driver’s license.
And the burnout factor.
The pushing of the child.
And mom and dad, again, believing, well, that kid, the college scholarship, which, by the way, I don’t have to saythis here in this room, but I’m a Northwesterngrad and I’m very involved in my alma mater, Northwestern, I’m on the Board of Trustees there, and our tuition is what, is $75, 000, $80, 000 a year? I mean, basically, parentsare looking at close to $100 grand now forfour years, give or take.
But with travel andclothes and TVs and books and you name it, so let’s just say that, round that up to about $400, 000.
Well, no wonder parentsgo crazy at the thought that they’ve got thelittle volleyball player or the little basketballplayer, the soccer player, in that little seven or eight year old.
By the time they’re going to college, it may well be a half million a year.
And so of course, that’susually important.
And that’s trickle down, because you’re watching it all the time, you’re hearingabout it all the time and now it takes, sports takes good people and makes them crazy, right? And they’re still goodpeople and I see it.
I have a niece who plays volleyball and I’ll be at a game tonight at Langley High School, and I’m into it too.
So I see how that happens.
And I guess I’m just tryingto make that very real for everyone in this room, because I’m sure all of you have been through it, seena neighbor, seen a kid, and sports is such a good thing.
When sports are good, they’re great, right? They’re just great.
And yet, look at what can happen.
So, just kinda throwing that out there as part of the conversation as well.
– [Paul] Thank you.
– So Paul, I think it’s an, it’s an interesting question in particular, to use thesort of Marxist view on this, because I think the ironyof that is that while that was an observation madeby capitalist societies, if you look today, it’sactually authoritarian societies that are using sport for that purpose, to distract or from otherissues to use as a form of organization, imposingorganization or order.
I think on balance, that could be some of the negative aspects of sport.
On balance, though, Ithink the net is positive, in the sense that forevery authoritarian country that wants to use sport as a distraction, there are many other cases where sport is used to unite in nation-building, in defining a new identity, a new era for the people.
In my book, I look at onecase of nation-building, where these, where therewas an effort to sort of combine the bureaucraciesof the postal union of this country with thissection of the country with the postal unit ofthat section of the country and that was not really capturing the imagination of the people, but when they combined the football clubs, that really captured theimagination of the people and gave a sense of unity, right? It would be like New York Stateand Massachusetts merging, and if you merge the PortAuthorities, like how many of us would really care, right? But if you merged the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, I think a lot of people could relate to that, andthey could see that as union.
So the other, I thinkpositive, when you’re thinking about sports is the roleit’s played in development.
So, Christine’s coveredall these Olympics.
When you go back in history, you look at the ’64 Olympics in Tokyo, or the ’88Olympics in Seoul, the thing, these completely changedthe face of these cities, in incredibly positive ways, whether it was public hygiene, it was globalization of culture, all these sorts of things, and I see these all as net positives, even though there is this sort of opiate of the masses criticismof sport and politics.
– Thank you.
– Yeah, so you know, to your provocation, is the sports community thatwe can sort of idealize, is it not a fairly superficial sort of gossamer nature of community, I think that there’ssomething to that argument.
On the other hand, I think it’sbetter than the alternative, which is potentially nothingfilling those rituals and sort of filling that void.
I will say that one ofthe things that comes out, I think, of all the panelistsin all the discussion here is two cardinal values of sports culture are community and escapism.
And when political subjects enter into the world of sports culture, those often come at a costof those two cardinal values.
We conducted a, I conducted a survey with a colleague in political science that actually asked Americans, how do they feel about these questions of sports and politics.
We surveyed a nationalrepresentative sample and 50% of Americans in our sample say that sports and politics should not mix.
Only 20% of Americansbelieve that its okay for sports and politics to mix.
So in terms of what fans, and I share with you, as a former journalist, Ishare with you a sensibility that these are issuesthat can’t be left out, but I think that there issomething from fan responses to these questions ofdivisiveness that are important and certainly you see, certainly you see this pushback persiststhroughout sports history, right? Whether it was last weekin the website Deadspin being shut down because theywouldn’t stick to sports, whether you see this in the reaction to Collin Kaepernick’s protest movement on behalf of Black LivesMatter issues, being told to stick to sports, certainly we see a lot of the pushback comingfrom fans and coming from sports culture, even as sports culture also invisibly deliversquite a lot of messages about political subjectsthat people don’t tend to think are relevant to sports culture.
So just as a quickfollow-up here, another part of our survey examined the relationship between sports fandom and attitudes about economic inequality, which I think is one of the defining politicalissues of our time, and we found that sports fanswere far more comfortable than non-fans with economicinequality in society.
They tended to view thosewho had achieved great wealth as deserving of it because of, because of pull yourself up by your own bootstraps kind of mentality.
And that ideology ofmeritocracy is baked deep within sports cultureand I think it transfers to some of our attitudes external to it.
– Hearing the three of you speak now, I was hearing your remarks inlight of what Christine said, that we haven’t addressedamateur sports much.
That this conversation hasbeen about professional sports for the most part.
I don’t think there’ll betime for all three of you to address just what I’mabout to say, but we want to go to questions from the audience, but let me at least put out there that I think there’s aconflict, one I hope we get to examine over the next couple of days between the values right overhere, compassion, respect, love, enlightenment, balanceand joy and the values that, if you ask me, predominate inour discussions about sports, which are the valuesof winning and losing.
The values of being the bestteam, of beating your rival, of advancing to the finals and so forth.
Is it Pollyannish towish that these values would check those values? Is there a role for us to play? Or do we just have to kindastand back and let it happen? – Well, I’ll jump in.
I think that train has left the station.
I think, I think it’s only gonna get, and I’m really an optimistic person, I’m really a glass-half-full person, but I think the youth sportthing, the pressure to win, what we’re seeing withcollege sports, the name, image, likeness conversation, where we’re headed, which we’ll be paying athletes, and if we pay the football players, we better be paying thefield hockey players too.
Title IX lawsuits are, youknow, there’ll be thousands of them, if you’re not paying, if you’re only paying men andnot women at a university.
And may I just make a big plug here for using the word men’s, the pesky adjective men’s in front of the wordbasketball, or in front of the Final Four, becausethere is a women’s.
In the media I’ve been fighting that for years and hoping for that.
So we give women’s sportsits due and acknowledge there are two basketballteams on this campus and on most campuses, men’s and women’s, it’s not just the basketball game.
Should be the men’s basketballgame in my humble opinion.
Anyway, I yeah, we’re, I don’t know what it’s gonna look like in 50 years.
I’m a big, what is it gonnalook like in 25 years? I asked Roger Goodell, “Willwe have football in 50 years?” Of course, he said, “Yes.
” But I’m not so sure about that.
You know, these are theissues, but now we’re going, and maybe some of you, I know who coach kids and know what’s going on, I’d love to hear what you have to say, but Ithink it’s gonna get bigger and more cut throat andparents will care more.
The more money that’sin it, the more money that’s available eitherfor an image likeness, the more money if we doend up paying athletes and the more money they, again, the value of college scholarships, I think it’s gonna be really hard tokeep those wonderful values.
I do think however, it’s our best bet, if you wanna take a kid toa, child to the best chance to get an autograph andjust be treated with thanks that you’ve arrived, going toa high school sporting event or an Olympic sport event ina college campus, so by that, I mean the so-called minor sports, men’s, women’s minor sportsis still your best bet and the Olympics is stillyour best bet for great, wonderful moments, butobviously everything gets bigger and with getting bigger, it can be fraught with more issues, including scandal and that cut-throat nature of our society.
– Let me just jump invery quickly, following up on Christine’s points here.
You know, when I thinkof what is inspiring and a place to sort ofindulge hope especially, I think particularly the success of the Women’s U.
NationalSoccer Team this summer.
When you look, historically at the data around how much datacoverage is given over to women’s sports, the research suggests at both the local andnational level, it tends to get somewhere between2% and 3% of coverage.
And so, and this haspersisted for decades.
You haven’t seen much inthe way of growth in that.
And there are all sorts ofhistorical structural factors of discrimination that areat play there, but certainly, I think that what you sawthis summer with regard to the sheer exhilarationof how that team performed on the pitch, the factthat if sports were stocks, I would buy soccer for thelong-term, for global– for factors of globalization, for factors of the way in which gameplay ispartitioned out in terms of time and duration of matches, things like that.
And the fact that theteam definitely was able to strike a political consciousness, while at the same time being embraced by a really wide range offans, so there would be one that I would identify as inspiring.
– Just very quickly, so, it’san interesting question, Paul, and I think one way to lookat it is distinguishing it between all of us who observesport, who observe sports, who observe it as a toolof diplomacy, as a tool of reconciliation, and we see all these as very positive things, right? And generally, just very positive things.
You know, Marie Royce spoke last night at the Capital OneCenter and you know, EC, your Education and CultureAffairs in the State Department runs this thing calledSports United, it used to be called Sports United, these programs where they do all sortsof, use sports as a vehicle for reconciliation betweenall sorts of different groups and that’s just, you cannotsee that as negative.
But there is the otheraspect of it when you look at what you described reallyfrom the athlete’s perspective.
‘Cause when athletes, youknow, athletes are in there.
They’re doing this, they’replaying by the same rules, but there’s politics on any team, right? There are people that arelooking for shortcuts, there are people who are lobbying for certain people to play over others.
So I see, when I hear yousay, ask that question, when I’ve studied this, when you look at it from the athlete’s perspective, sometimes they have a very different view of what we all see ofthis wonderful fair play, meritocracy, all this sort of stuff.
I’m reminded, actually, of abook I’m just finishing now by Seth Berkman, who wroteabout the South Korean Women’s Hockey team that playedat the Pyeongchang Olympics.
And he is writing it from theperspective of the players.
And it’s very interesting, ’cause the world looked at this as a singular momentwhen these rival regimes in North and South Koreawere coming together in a united team of North Korean players and South Korean players, playing together on the same hockey team forthe first time in history.
But from the player’s perspective, it was all about inequity.
Because the good players were not necessarily getting ice time.
Some of them couldn’t evenwalk into the stadium, because there’s a limited numberof people that can come in, so I think there is this sensethat if you sometimes look at it from the athlete’sperspective, it’s not as wonderful as we all make it out to be.
– We have time for a questionor two from the audience.
For either Christine, Victor or Michael.
Back, a third of theway back, stage right.
– [Man] Sort of a point to a little more discussion from you.
You mentioned aboutSuzuki and the MAGA hat.
I think the interestingthing about the Nats and their ability to win wasit was a very diverse team.
Probably was more diversethan most of us did.
But they clearly, theemotion of bonding together and enjoying playingtogether overcame all that.
And to me, I think maybethat is the message in the power over sports at some times.
And to your point, thereprobably is a lot more politics going on than we ever see, but they still are able to overcome it.
– Well, and to yourpoint, there’s a picture that I’ve seen online, I’msure you can easily find it, of Shawn Doolittle, who ofcourse, was very thoughtful in his comments about notwanting to go to the White House, the Washington Post hadthat story a few days ago, and his battery madeof course, Kurt Suzuki and you know, smiling, thisis during the season, right? A picture of the two of them.
Doolittle, anti-Trump, Suzuki, pro-Trump.
Which we did not know.
Actually, I think we probably could have guessed about Doolittle.
I know he’s done many, been very socially active in Oakland when he was there and has spoken about these things.
But Suzuki, no one knewanything about this, at least I didn’t untilhe put on the MAGA hat.
So yeah, I think there’sa, that picture really is an incredible messageand it’s a nice image to see and I think that it’s clearly, we’ll see how it plays outover the next few months.
I mean, people are gonna buytickets and go to Nats games, but will Kurt Suzuki get booed? Probably.
Donald Trump was booed vociferously.
I was at that game and covering all three of the home games here, credentialed, and writing columns about them, and yeah, that was some seriousbooing of Donald Trump.
And so and maybe then that led to the White House visitand then, you never know.
I think that in the scheme of all the stories we’re covering, that’s lower and it’s goingto fade away, probably, unless there’s back storiesthat come out about, because the PR people aren’ttalking, which is very unusual for them not to get backto me or other journalists.
So we’ll see.
But certainly the team, you’re right.
And there were eight players who didn’t go to the White House for various reasons, including Anthony Rendon, although we have no idea why.
You could almost feel, then, a full team, eight of them, did not go.
So we’ll see.
It’ll be a very interestingkind of thing to follow.
But I don’t think it’s ahuge, huge breaking story over the next few months for sure.
– Question in the center.
– [Man] As we look atsport and parallel faith and organized religionand how sport has grown in all over the world andreligion, organized religion has ebbed a bit, wheredoes, in that parallel, where does sport fall short in terms of how organized religion and faith have contributed to humanity.
Where does sport fall short? – I think that’s a question for Michael.
– I think that’s a questionfor a more gifted theologians in the audience than I am.
I mean very clearly, sports is sports provides people with, I think, many of the habits and values that religion traditionally did, but sports doesn’t make anyclaims to eternal salvation that are at the heart ofmost religious endeavors, from whatever faith context, and so and so I think that, again, there are those religiousscholars far more versed than I to explain the ebbsand flows of secularism and identification withtraditional religion, but I suspect or I wouldargue, that the way in which people still desire the things that they would’ve gottenfrom traditional religion, they are finding satisfiedthrough being players and fans themselves in the realm of sport.
The same habits of mind, the same way that it concentrates you, right? Which is one of the amazing capacities of both religion and sport.
The way it defines whatgood and evil is, right? And so, again, I think it’s a metaphor and so therefore it’s as a metaphor, it’s gonna fall short of actually fulfilling the concrete natureof what religion provides, but it’s a substitute, andan imperfect one, at that.
– Thank you, Michael.
Thank you, Victor.
Thank you, Christine.
Let’s continue theconversation during the break.
Thanks to everyone for your contributions.