The obsession with sports and the infantilization of society

11700648_10204769758420076_1494816692092470857_oWhile walking through my local Target store, a tee-shirt jumped out at me. It said “NEVER DEFEATED.”

The shirt was obviously suited for a three-year-old child. And I thought: “Of course you’ve never been defeated you little twit. You’re three years old.”

Listen, competition is good. It’s fun. It teaches lessons and imparts values to people. When they’re grown enough to appreciate them. That might be younger for some children than others.

But competition is also a values proposition. And the idea that a three-year-old child should walk around in a shirt that states NEVER DEFEATED is sick.

This tee shirt is as bad or worse than Toddlers for Tiaras and all that ugly imposition of beauty queen sexuality on little girls. Of course the tee shirt might just fit the little girl with a faux tiara on her head and her tiny heinie sticking out in a bright green dance outfit. The idea that mothers are forcing their little girls into roles like that should make America sick.

And yet we celebrate it with reality shows. If indeed that’s what’s going on.

My own daughter was once signed up for dance. She found the other little girls insufferably cliquish, selfish and mean. So that was the end of dance class.

Same went for girl’s soccer, frankly. My daughter wanted to be friends with other girls on the team and the Alpha Girl would not allow it. So much for equality and the egalitarianism of sports.

Boys can be just as petty and stupid. If a kid on a sports team can’t catch well or falls behind during sprint drills, they are obvious targets for ridicule.

And believe me I get that. There is a definite pattern of sorting that occurs through sports. Frankly I was the worst of the worst when it came to competition. I would destroy other kids in sports if I could. That was the product of a highly competitive family and competing with older brothers. But I ultimately learned my lessons.

At one point during sixth-grade softball I threw a ball from home plate to second base to catch a runner trying to steal. The kid playing second moved his glove and the ball struck him flush in the face. It knocked him out and detached his entire retina. A year later when I came back to visit the town from which I’d moved, I met the kid again and his eye was still blood red.

That day my teachers quickly hauled me off to protect me from the sight of the kid and the blood and the impact on another child that I had inflicted. She quietly asked me, “Why do you always throw at their heads?”

I had not thought about that. Because it’s an easy target? The best way to aim?

In fact it was neither. I could throw hard because of countless days spent throwing baseballs into a pitchback net. My pitching arm was faster than kids two and three years older. For my age, I was a dominating pitcher.

These days I walk by baseball practices every day. All summer long I walk my dog around the park where three baseball fields are found. People run around that loop as well. So there’s always something to study and watch.

To their credit I almost never hear parents yelling angry or distracting things to their children. I have never heard a so-called “Little League” parent get angry, question the umpire or anything like that. I just realized that right now. I’m impressed with that fact. There are many people who now get the fact that sports should be fun and that parents are not supposed to influence what happens on the playing field. Congratulations to all who get that.

I failed in that regard sometimes as coach. But soon enough I shut my yap and grew up.

So I’m somewhat wondering how we go from such normal perspectives to the idea that someone, sometime will buy that tee shirt that says NEVER DEFEATED for their little kid. What strata of culture is buying into that type of ideology? Why is it acceptable to impose such values on a little child even when they don’t understand it completely. How could they?

NEVER DEFEATED. What does that even mean? 

You cannot play sports and never lose. It is simply not possible. And the main lesson from losing is to come back another day and try again. We all know that, don’t we?

Criterium du Dauphine - Stage EightWhen cyclist TJ Van Garderen recently pulled out of the Tour de France, some questioned his psychology. They wondered if he was truly quitting for physical reasons. Or was it mental. Sure, he’d been fifth a couple times before, but the pressures of the podium were too much?

I thought about that too. And I’ve decided that’s bunk. The guy just had a bad few days in competition. He was sick and exhausted and he lost minutes on a single ride. That sucks.

But would he have succeeded if he had a tee shirt that said NEVER DEFEATED?

What the hell. I mean seriously, what the hell?

We infantilize ourselves with such bald-faced competitive drivel. We make society into a farce by turning sports into some fake statement about personal endurance and the ability to overcome adversity.

NEVER DEFEATED. 

You could say the same thing about Hitler. He shot himself before being captured.

You could say the same thing about Caligula, the Roman emperor whose obsession with power was so thorough he turned his appetites into the expression of an entire empire. Here’s how Wikipedia describes his life:

When Germanicus died at Antioch in AD 19, his wife Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome with her six children where she became entangled in a bitter feud with Tiberius. The conflict eventually led to the destruction of her family, with Caligula as the sole male survivor. Untouched by the deadly intrigues (never defeated) Caligula accepted the invitation to join the Emperor on the island of Capri in AD 31, to where Tiberius, himself, had withdrawn five years earlier. With the death of Tiberius in AD 37, Caligula succeeded his grand uncle and adoptive grandfather as emperor.

There are few surviving sources about the reign of Emperor Caligula, although he is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first six months of his reign. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant. (never defeated) While the reliability of these sources is questionable, it is known that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor (never defeated) as opposed to countervailing powers within the principate. He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and luxurious dwellings for himself, and initiated the construction of two aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. During his reign, the empire annexed the Kingdom of Mauretania as a province.

In early AD 41, Caligula was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy by officers of the Praetorian Guard, senators, and courtiers. The conspirators’ attempt to use the opportunity to restore the Roman Republic was thwarted (never defeated) on the day of the assassination of Caligula, the Praetorian Guard declared Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, the next Roman emperor. (never defeated)

So you see this concept of never being defeated is a sick and obsessive attempt at earthly power and rule. We see it with political issues today, in which some members of political parties will do absolutely anything and say anything to maintain power. As a result, they think and act like spoiled children. They adopt a winner-take-all and NEVER DEFEATED mentality when they do assume power. They are modern day Caligulas both denying and obsessing over their sexual and political desires. Deeply conflicted, they set about trying to win the culture wars, ultimately and often confessing the very thing they claim to hate in others is actually a deeply repressed drive within themselves.

That means we must be careful what values we impose upon our children. That green tee shirt in Target may seem innocent enough, but it is in fact evidence that something in society is far out of balance. And you better watch out someday for the little bastards that grow up with that motto on their chest. Caligula did a lot of damage before he was stabbed to death.

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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One Response to The obsession with sports and the infantilization of society

  1. OmniRunner says:

    When my girls were young my wife often found it difficult to buy them clothing that was not sexy. An 8-year old does not need to dress like a tramp and her parents should not allow, condone or acquiesce.
    What are people thinking when they let their 10 year old is wear shorts with “juicy” on the ass? Really?
    And I see lots of adult children everyday.
    Andy

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