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Tennis as ceremony (II)

Excellent weeks these last two with the Canadian Masters 1000 and Cincinnati Masters 1000. As we well know, circuits ATP y WTA they do not stop and will continue in the ring, but looking askance at a US Open 2022 which is expected to be exciting. We take advantage of this situation, somewhat calmer, to continue setting a series of reflections.

A small point and problematic

The complexity when analyzing the idea of ​​sport comes when we try to find the features that allow it to be defined. That is, manage to determine each of its elements and combine them in a formulation that gives them meaning. Asking ourselves, thus, how can we ensure that practices as different as javelin throwing or Formula 1 are considered sports? What principles can serve to illustrate an explanation that addresses the phenomena related to the term?

In the first part of this theory, which we are going to try to define in this and future writings, we place tennis as a institution built on the core of a ceremony (the matches), so tennis enjoys three general characteristics that exhibit, in turn, what a ceremony is. The three features were: repeatability, abstraction and normativity.

As well, a PDB follower, in one of his comments, insinuated that such a condition was applicable to all sports disciplines. In other words, what he was pointing out was that both tennis and football, hockey and athletics are, in the same way, ceremonies. Indicating, therefore, that the thesis was not closed and, above all, that the generic does not define the specific. Or, better yet, that we hide the particular in the abstract.

Let me put a couple of cases so you understand what I want to tell you. Such an opinion would be as if we were using the concept of violent (gender) to define a murderer (species), but not all violent people are murderers. In the same way that the table (the species) is a piece of furniture (the generic), but not all furniture is a table.

And the same thing would have happened if he had indicated other aspects of the so-called Game Theory (I recommend the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, to learn more about its creator). Thus, define tennis as a non-cooperative and zero-sum game (where to win one must lose another), to give an example, even if it is true, it would not perfectly detail the essence of tennis, since we would not distance ourselves from other subjects.

It is not a ceremony because it is tennis, but it is tennis because it is a ceremony

However, we must remember a fundamental aspect that does not invalidate the argument or make it false. If the test is correct, moving from the concrete to the abstract brings us closer to the truth of things and it does not distance us from them: that basketball games are ceremonies does not take away an iota of truth from the statement that tennis is too. In the same way that I can be taller than my brother, but not taller than Pau Gasol.

What is clear is that it is the ceremony that establishes tennis and not the other way around, since the ceremonies are a series of routines that have won and, because they have won, they have been consolidated. For now, and to differentiate, tennis is a ceremony that is organized, executed and developed among humans. A fundamental aspect, since it shows that there are ceremonial acts where relationships occur between humans and non-human animals (as in bullfighting or hunting). And others where, in a broad sense, the protagonist is nature”being the man who tries to overcome the obstacles, the inanimate natural elements, that she “generates” (such as surfing, mountain climbing or, in another order, ceremonies such as certain shamanic rites).

Tennis players, gladiators and the idea of ​​Man

According to this perspective and analysis, we would have to face certain analogies that fans (and not so fans) often use, namely: we will say that tennis cannot be analogousnor a non-violent evolution (others will say “civilized”) of the fight between gladiators.

Now, the reason is not because, in the Roman contests, animals appeared, fighting against the educated. Nor because there was, on many occasions, death (although it is not a minor thing), I will not even say that the difference is in the instruments, but that the real key, and this is the essential thing, is that the ceremony was constituted under the consideration that slaves were “talking cattle”. That is, those who risked their lives were not considered men.

For this reason, the figure of the referee cannot be compared, not even remotely, with that of the emperor, since one recognize as equals to the protagonists and the other, even being able to see that they have the same body canon, manifested, with their presence, such asymmetry and dominance (like properties or goods that they were).

In short, tennis can only be understood hand in hand with a series of historical changes that, as usual, were not intended to formalize it, as if the end of slavery was the previous step to the creation of this sport. However, it should be added that a context was required where a series of social rights, formal equality, isonomy or equality before the law were guaranteed.

Some laws that guaranteed the division by social classes, which were divided according to their position with respect to the means of production, where the proletariat showed its disagreement, but now, derived from the modifications produced by the capitalist mode of production, deepening a very different maxim where, this time yes, the neighbor was recognized in his human condition (albeit alienated), struggling to overcome “the exploitation of man by man.” This theme, fundamental in the consideration of the idea of ​​sport (as sport), we will leave it for another text.

Around with the viewer

I did not want to leave without commenting on some reactions that were in the first of the articles. In it, he asked if the spectator in tennis could be called that. Or if, on the contrary, the spectator, by not being biased, becomes an actor in the ceremony. The answers were very valuable, since it was pointed out that it is impossible to be impartial and they even warned that there is no dualism between observing and doingthat is, that the one who observes acts, as much as the one who acts observes.

However, I would like to go a little further. The issue, perhaps, is not to say that the viewer ends up selecting one of the participants, the issue is not that the subject ends or begins with a preference, but that, with their action, they are capable of changing the course of the game. Also, to finish, I leave you with another question.

How do we determine the difference between the spectator and other technical spectators such as ball boys, line judges or organizing directors? In other words, it is necessary to determine what the viewer, not as a technical viewer, but as an assistant viewer, sees in the scene. Otherwise, we would ask: from what aspect does the spectator contemplate the realities that take place on stage so that the contemplation can be called tennis? Perhaps there are not, on many occasions, assistants whose interest is “extra-tenistic” (the child who ignores, the manager who observes that everything goes according to plan or the physio, attentive to act if they claim him). I will read your opinions.

I end this article by thanking you for your interest and I hope that we can continue thinking together, even if you express your absolute disagreement. I have to clarify that despite the fact that I do this thank you at the end, do not think that I do it as a of earning goodwill. For my part, nothing more to say.

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