After some decades of serious counter-cultural antiestablishmentarianism, including likening American football games (especially professional) to the bread-and-circuses of Roman gladiatorial spectacles imperially and deviously designed to distract the masses, I have returned to near where I began life as a natural athlete and again enjoy watching the pure athleticism of it all, like semi-choreographed, yet spontaneous, grace-in-motion and Greek theater of tragedy and triumph. Sports is life as much as anything else is.
Yet, spectator sports is largely a waste of time, I still believe. Nonetheless, when one roots for a team, sometimes local or one from college days or from whence one came, one's identity is part of the mix. For example, my following the University of Kentucky sports programs--many of you can identify with this sentiment--has a great deal to do with MY IDENTITY as a Kentuckian (but I do not live there any longer) and my sense of where I come from--my sense of place, my sense of who I am. It also affords me a sense of community, as I am part of the diasporic "Big Blue Nation" and I look for other people around where I presently live who have the same roots. Sports is a way of connecting to the world.
As I related above, I was a severe critic of this sort of thinking during the later 1960s through the 1980s. Several things changed my thinking. One was a thin anthropological study about Native American "spirit running," where present-day warriors cover preternatural distances in a single run, say over a hundred miles in a few hours. Yes! They claim they run above the ground. It got me thinking about physical regimen as spirituality. It got me thinking about mind over matter.
Another influence was the books by Dan Millman: Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior, and The Inner Athlete, and its revision as Body Mind Mastery: Creating Success in Sport and Life. He helped me see that everyBODY is an athlete (at some level), as we all live (with our minds) in a body; and that our bodies are in our minds. This breaks down the mind-body dualism.
This I have practiced, I see now, nearly my entire life. It works. I hope to not lose any power by saying that I have created and inhabit--now entering my seventh decade of life--a body (from the neck down) that is nearly the same as I had when I was an 18-year-old competitive athlete. (I have mentioned elsewhere that I was a non-scholarship walk-on on the University of Kentucky freshman basketball team.) It's startling to some when they see me at the gym. It's not all genetics as my three brothers do not look as I do.
Now my "competition" is with myself--with my body, with my mind. We have friendly competition and I'm always the winner.
My admonition to all y'all is to strive for some body-mind mastery as part of your own personal path of human potential. It works. The mind, working in tandem with the body, is a powerful force.