I spent yesterday being exceptionally lazy, in a profound counter demonstration to the obsessive worship of athletes that occurs uniformly throughout the nation every Superbowl Sunday, or indeed any other major televised sporting event. Being a lifetime sporting fan and competitor this might seem somewhat contrary, but actually indicates a love of the ethos of sport over pure rampant commercialization.
When I first became involved with sporting events the players where almost invariably divided into two categories, amateurs, and players. In modern parlance it would be assumed that the players would be the superior of the two groupings, where as in fact in older times the amateurs were almost surely the better performers. The designations had nothing to do with ability, but all to do with finances, players were professionals, paid for their services, amateurs took part purely for the love of the game. Professional sports were considered but a breeding ground for illegal gambling, rife with irregularity and criminal fixing, amateur sports were above such machinations, regulated strictly to negate financial malpractice, indeed the worst punishment an amateur could suffer was to be declared a professional and thereby barred from almost all major competitive sport. It is worth remembering that the Olympic games, that pinnacle of sporting festivals, strictly disallowed professional inclusion till the late nineteen eighties, but some thirty years ago.
Naturally, this strange phenomenon of split events, of dual roles of honor, led to many strange compromises and most intricate avoidances. I personally remember playing in a rugby ‘league’ team, an entirely professional sports code, whose entire roster were employed under pseudonyms to avoid any politic repercussions. Many sports used a system known prosaically as ‘boot money’, a simple metaphor for the habit of leaving every players dirty boots near the changing room door whilst they were changing back into civies. Mysteriously, when the boots were later collected by the players they had surreptitiously been stuffed with banknotes.