The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.
nerves.  So, too, there are many thousands who yell for Yale in a football match who have no real sporting instinct whatever.  Sport, to be sport, must jealously shun all attempts to make it a business; the more there is of the spirit of professionalism in any game or athletic exercise the less it deserves to be called a sport.  A sport in the true sense of the word must be practised for fun or glory, not for dollars and cents; and the desire to win must be very strictly subordinated to the sense of honour and fair play.  The book-making spirit has undoubtedly entered far too largely into many of the most characteristic of British sports, and I have no desire to palliate or excuse our national shortcomings in this or other respects.  But the hard commercial spirit to which I have alluded seems to me to pervade American sport much more universally than it does the sport of England, and to form almost always a much larger factor in the interest excited by any contest.

This is very clearly shown by the way in which games are carried on at the universities of the two countries.  Most members of an English college are members of some one or other of the various athletic associations connected with it, and it cannot be denied that the general interest in sport is both wide and keen.  But it does not assume so “business-like” an air as it does in such a university as Yale or Princeton.  Not nearly so much money is spent in the paraphernalia of the sport or in the process of training.  The operation of turning a pleasure into a toil is not so consistently carried on.  The members of the intercollegiate team do not obtain leave of absence from their college duties to train and practise in some remote corner of England as if they were prize-fighters or yearlings.  “Gate-money” does not bulk so largely in the view; in fact, admission to many of the chief encounters is free.  The atmosphere of mystery about the doings of the crew or team is not so sedulously cultivated.  The men do not take defeat so hardly, or regard the loss of a match as a serious calamity in life.  I have the authority of Mr. Caspar W. Whitney, the editor of Forest and Stream, and perhaps the foremost living writer on sport in the United States, for the statement that members of a defeated football team in America will sometimes throw themselves on their faces on the turf and weep (see his “Sporting Pilgrimage,” Chapter IV., pp. 94, 95).[13] It was an American orator who proposed the toast:  “My country—­right or wrong, my country;” and there is some reason to fear that American college athletes are tempted to adapt this in the form “Let us win, by fair means or foul.”  I should hesitate to suggest this were it not that the evidence on which I do so was supplied from American sources.  Thus, one American friend of mine told me he heard a member of a leading university football team say to one of his colleagues:  “You try to knock out A.B. this bout; I’ve been warned once.”  Tactics of this kind are freely alleged against our professional players of association football; but it may safely be asserted that no such sentence could issue from the lips of a member of the Oxford or Cambridge university teams.

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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