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The hierarchy of concentration

July 7, 2015

Why is it that spectators have to be silent during some sports and not in others? Why is it that there is a perceived sense of awe – that there is a hierarchy of concentration in sport? In order to explain what this rather lumbering opening paragraph is trying to say, allow me to elaborate with the use of examples.

Golf, the Ryder cup, a golfer has to sing a twelve feet putt to win the championship. The crowd are asked to be quiet – actually, if someone as much as scratches his head they are scowled at, and woe betide anyone who shuffles! Why is it that this golfer needs silence? Is this millionaire so easily distracted by a rogue blink that it takes every ounce of his concentration to swing a golf club.

Wimbledon, the women’s semi-final. A white-clad, sweaty Eastern European in a dress is serving to thrash out of sight her slightly baffledand dishevelled opponent. The umpire demands absolute quiet. So much so Heathrow air traffic control are asked to put their planes in a holding pattern lest the sound of rumbling engines result in a ball toss being slightly wayward.

Rugby union, an English number 10 puts the ball on the kicking tee and prepares to propel the ball over fifty metres between the posts to win the world cup. The crowd are shouting, singing, enjoying themselves. Why does This not deserve the silence of respect? apparently he doesn’t need to concentrate, in fact his sport hasn’t even been professional for long and he isn’t as rich as one of those tennis players. His heart is thudding, this is the biggest moment of his life, his task is far more challenging than… cut to a snooker player, bloke in a bow tie, this chap doesn’t train till his lungs hurt, till his biceps pop. He doesn’t do shuttle runs and circuits, he only has to lean across the table and move a stick backwards and forwards. But he, this denizen of hall and club is afforded the upmost respect and reverence, the white-gloved referee having warned the spectators that they will be evicted if they so much as breathe! Why does this nine feet pot take more concentration than a footballer who is about to take a vital corner, or a cricketer who is about to bowl the last ball of his over, or a batsman who is about to face a fast bowler?

Why do some sports demand sepulchral silence and others call for carnival chanting and singing? I don’t understand it. At least in rowing you can only hear your Cox, the sound of water and the occasional bark of an umpire. So why is it that a completely unessential tennis serve demands more silence and awe than a vital line-out? Surely, in the line-out silence would be good, at least the lock could hear the calls.

Anyway, I’m off to the world chess championship, my cheer-leader kit is ready, my pom-poms are primed and I’m not afraid to wave them about and insight rapturous singing and applause when someone’s pawn is taken by a bishop.

From → games, leisure, Sport

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