Being a fan of football versus being a fan of literature

On my eighteenth birthday I calculated that one-third of my life had been spent practicing and playing football, so blame must rest on the biases of my boyhood when I ask:

What is this sense that the most enthusiastic of football fans, its most obnoxious supporters, are those who have no experience playing the game? It’s like Plato’s rebuke of the painter who, unlike a carpenter, paints a table yet remains completely ignorant of how the table is made.

If someone wants to look at a table, to behold its appearance, she may call on either a painter or a carpenter. But if someone actually wants to use a table, and affect reality in some sort of way, then she must call on a carpenter. In this sense, the carpenter’s craft (poimea) as well as her knowledge of it (gnosis) stand closer and more immediate to reality than the imitative arts of the painter.

But in my experience, the most partisan of football fans are those who have no experience playing the game in any organized fashion. They carry a knowledge about the game (wins, loses, statistics, trades, team members)—and not a gnosis of the game itself—they are kept confined in a meta-mimetic gnosis of spiel for sport.

It would be as if in Academe, the less-read a critic becomes, the greater his notoriety. Those who avoid reading a canon (or conceiving of one) nevertheless arbitrate their own canon by negation. By swerving away from the light, they unveil the beacon needed by those of us still under-read, still striving for passage out of the dark.

My only comfort comes from this stalwart tradition: how neither cheerleaders nor all-stars routinely make the best of coaches in either football or literature. The meta-mimetic critic shall never mentor the majority of imitative artists. Fandom is fashionable, but it cannot fashion champions. Fandom may memorialize champions, but only through experience can cunning craft victory.


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