Have you ever wondered what fuels our at times insatiable passion for sport? What drives thousands of sports fans each week to take to the roads to support their clubs and their counties?
What incentive did the green army have to travel to Poland last summer to watch the Irish team and why each year is there a mad scramble for tickets for All Ireland Finals to watch 30 amateur players battle it out for the honour of being crowned the best team in the country?
These are the questions answered by former Laois Senior Football Manager Tom D’Arcy who has launched a new book entitled ‘The Sport Spectator – a Post Modern Perspective’ which looks in depth at the importance of sport to communities and how it brings them together.
The book is an abridged and rewritten form of his thesis and is written in a very accessible way to make it appealing to a very wide audience.
The book centres on sport as a societal practice and it gives a greater understanding of how sport provides for communities of all sizes with particular focus on the committed sports spectator.
It examines how sport is introduced to children and how those early experiences lead us to form our sporting identity. It looks at how sport gives a topic for conversation in our social lives and how it helps with establishing new relationships while strengthening existing ones.
It goes on to examine how hero construction develops and the difference between the heroes on a national stage who we are unlikely to meet and those on a local level who are likely to be standing behind us in our local shop.
He writes that our desire for sporting heroes is an evolution of the human being’s innate desire to keep alive the memory of the mighty deeds of past warriors and chieftains.
“The primitive desire to worship the magnificence of heroic individual performance and spectacle appears to permeate the intrinsic mindset of modern humans as it did in the ancient eras.”
Tom analysed two different groups of sports followers in Ireland in particular both known for their fanatical fans. The two were Munster rugby and Kilkenny hurling and there were over 840 respondents to his surveys, ranging in age from 15 to 85.
Some of the responses to the survey give a telling insight into the mind of the dedicated sports fan and the importance of sport in bringing people together.
One Kilkenny fan commented, “My parents, myself, siblings and sometimes their spouses as well as nieces and nephews. I suppose to us it’s part of who we think we are and to some extent we grew up on it. It’s one of the bonds between us.”
Another Kilkenny fan summed up the feelings of many sports fans when he said, “It’s about you and it’s about your place, your home, your parish and your county. I love it so much. I’d travel anywhere to watch it.”
While a different code, the comments of Munster rugby fans echoed those of their hurling counterparts.
“It’s the passion displayed by the players on the field whether they won or lost. You feel the players put their bodies on the line for you. The whole thing makes you feel part of a close knit family.”
Other reasons outlined as to why we are so engrossed by sport is ‘to witness the will to win as a human survival instinct’, ‘to escape the pressures of everyday life’, the anticipation of uncertainty and what might happen’ and ‘the feel good sensation of winning’.
One very interesting finding of the research shows the difference between men and women when it comes to what they get from supporting their teams.
While there was a high measure of commonality, women tended to highlight the significance of social interaction and the bonding dimension of family and friend relationships while men placed a greater emphasis on the camaraderie between players and spectators and winning.
Women placed a high value on codes and moral behaviour and fairness while men viewed sport more as a platform through which ‘unrestricted emotion expression could be engaged in without reprimand or censure’.
The book is intended to appeal to general sports enthusiasts but it is also aimed at parents primarily when it comes to the development of early interests.
The book is available in All Books in Portlaoise, Midlands Books in Tullamore: Balcony Books inTullamore, Best Seller Books in Carlow and direct from www.choicepublishing.ie and as an e-book from Amazon-Kindle and other digital platforms.