I’ll be leading the Hospital Club Writing Salon on Monday on the subject of what sport and play can teach us about story. I hope to see some of you there. Here’s the full blurb.
There’s a back to school air about the place at the moment. Thoughts of summer give way to the inevitable pull of autumn and the new term. But rather than see this as cause for a fit of depression I want us to celebrate it. Or at least examine it.
The end of summer and the return to school has a powerful pull on the senses. It evokes memories of friends, teachers and a shiny new uniform. For me it conjures up images of sport and of being not very good at it.
If you dipped into the sports pages at all this summer you may have noticed a familiar refrain. It is often impossible to separate the notion of sport from that of storytelling. We seem to demand that sport holds up its end of the bargain in our desire to bask in the power of story. Just observe the national mood when Mo Farah and Usain Bolt were thwarted in their final races. Look no further than Justin Gatlin for a prototype of the pantomime villain. We project our desire for story onto sport in a way we would never do with business, or politics, although both have plenty of pantomime villains.
Why do we have such a fascination with the story of sport? Not just sport mind you, but “play” in general. If you’ve been to school, you’ve done sport. Perhaps not very well and perhaps not even with any real desire. But whatever your experiences there’s a connection to sport and play that conditions us. It pervades our emotions and that is critical to storytelling. There’s an argument that it is even critical to our survival. When does play give way to sport and why should kids have all the fun. Isn’t “play” as important to adults as to children? But if so, why?
On Monday I’d like us to do a couple of things. By all means think about great examples of sport and play in literature, film and television. But beyond that think about why we project our desire for storytelling onto sport.
There is one story that above all others shows how powerful sport is when it comes to storytelling. It’s a story that fits the classic man against man, man against the world, man against himself struggle so perfectly that it has become synonymous with both sport and storytelling. It shows how amazing characters rise above their WANT and come to realise their NEED. I’ll be using it to show how sport and story go hand in hand. Heroes, villains, winners, losers, cheers, tears and plenty of fears. It’s all there.
I’ll be joined this month by Graham Sibley, host of the incredibly successful “Sound of Football” podcast and keen student of both the history and storytelling nature of sport.