(June 29th, 2018)
This week we are taking a closer look into the world of sports and anarchism. Across the newspaper headlines for the past few weeks has been coverage of the World Cup of soccer taking place in Russia. Outside of the USA and around the world, the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world and it’s game of soccer, the most popular sport.
It’s taking place in Russia this year, which has also been in the anarchist news headlines for repression of anarchists and dissidents there. It should be obvious that anarchists are against the spectacle of sports on this level – the governments, corporations, and corruption inherent in such things. One example of anarchist opposition to the world of sports comes from the text “The Olympics: a reflection of a society under capitalism by anonymous.” It says the Olympics are “little more than a display of nationalistic pride and flag waving by nations who co-opt efforts of athletes to further their own schemes.” And then the text calls for an “Anarchist Olympic games to be held in 2020. I’m not sure what events there would be (that’s another discussion) but they would be a games that will surely highlight mutual aid over competition, solidarity over nationalism, and equality over crass commercialisation.”
On the more anarchist playing field, sports have played an important aspect of radical culture. Recently in a very informal IRC survey of participants favorite anarchist sports they listed: sex, brick throwing, running down the walls, capture the flag and other neighborhood / city wide games (a la CrimethInc.), protest, attack, video games and antifa. Apparently, it was also mentioned that the Japanese have contests for flipping tables and book ripping.
Anarchist and antifascist football clubs are popular world wide, but especially in Europe it seems. The Situationist Asger Jorn came up with a variation of soccer called three-sided football, which is played by some. Other than Jeff “The Snowman” Monson of mixed martial artist fame, I’m hard-pressed to name any famous anarchist athletes other than perhaps Woody Harrelson in the 1990s movie “White Men Can’t Jump” - as Wikipedia lists him as an anarchist, although it also mentions that he supports the 9/11 Truth Movement. The Colorado Avalanche of The National Hockey League (NHL) takes home the award for sports team unknowingly having anarchist symbol as their logo. Curiously, in Fifth Estate #392 they published a text “On The Anarchist Origins of Golf” by Joseph Winogrond, which makes an argument for golf originally as an anarchist sport of sorts. Certainly the abuse of land, water-use, chemicals, corporate-sized tournament purses and exorbitant greens fees, its feigned air of exclusivity and aristocracy of golf today are far from these anarchist roots.
In the recent intriguing text “Maximum Potential” by Max Res they examine the idea of anarchists doing fitness. Accordingly, much of the current writing on such things is centered around the antifa crowd and they take a look at the Haymaker Gym in Chicago, which is an “attempt to create a radical culture of fitness and self-defense.” The Haymaker thinks of the body as “the most intimate of material forces” and “as a tool for revolution, and strength as a means by which to change the world.” Max Res concludes that it is “worth further considering what anarchist fitness could look like when not motivated by revolutionary goals or a defense mentality.” Certainly these ideas of anarchists doing fitness and the relationship to sports is an exciting area to consider in the toolbox of anarchism.
Back to the news, the television channel flickers and the reporter reads the World Cup scores aloud. Colin Kaepernick still isn’t on an NFL team yet, mostly for kneeling during the national anthem, which with backing from Trump, the NFL will now penalize teams for such actions. Meanwhile Kaepernick has been seen out supporting the IWOC, or the IWW effort behind incarcerated workers and prison abolition. NBA stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul rally around social issues like Black Lives Matter and gun violence. The NFL “cares” and frequently puts in players and teams doing community service ops and has teams wear special military pride uniforms some weekends. The spectacle of popular culture and sports grinds on as your favorite player signs a multi-million dollar contract and even larger Nike shoe endorsement. CYA in the streets!