Sport and the Russian Revolution

“People will divide into “parties” over the question of a new gigantic canal, or the distribution of oases in the Sahara (such a question will exist too), over the regulation of the weather and the climate, over a new theatre, over chemical hypotheses, over two competing tendencies in music, and over a best system of sports.”
– Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution

At the start of the twentieth century sport had not flourished in Russia to the same extent as in countries such as Britain. The majority of the Russian population were peasants, spending hours each day on back-breaking agricultural labour. Leisure time was difficult to come by and even then people were often exhausted from their work. Of course people did still play, taking part in such traditional games as lapta (similar to baseball) and gorodki (a bowling game). A smattering of sports clubs existed in the larger cities but they remained the preserve of the richer members of society. Ice hockey was beginning to grow in popularity, and the upper echelons of society were fond of fencing and rowing, using expensive equipment most people would never have been able to afford.

In 1917 the Russian Revolution turned the world upside down, inspiring millions of people with its vision of a society built on solidarity and the fulfilment of human need. In the process it unleashed an explosion of creativity in art, music, poetry and literature. It touched every area of people’s lives, including the games they played. Sport, however, was far from being a priority. The Bolsheviks, who had led the revolution, were confronted with civil war, invading armies, widespread famine and a typhus epidemic. Survival, not leisure, was the order of the day. However, during the early part of the 1920s, before the dreams of the revolution were crushed by Stalin, the debate over a “best system of sports” that Trotsky had predicted did indeed take place. Two of the groups to tackle the question of “physical culture” were the hygienists and the Proletkultists.

Hygienists
As the name implies the hygienists were a collection of doctors and health care professionals whose attitudes were informed by their medical knowledge. Generally speaking they were critical of sport, concerned that its emphasis on competition placed participants at risk of injury. They were equally disdainful of the West’s preoccupation with running faster, throwing further or jumping higher than ever before. “It is completely unnecessary and unimportant,” said A.A. Zikmund, head of the Physical Culture Institute in Moscow, “that anyone set a new world or Russian record.” Instead the hygienists advocated non-competitive physical pursuits – like gymnastics and swimming -as ways for people to stay healthy and relax.

For a period of time the hygienists influenced Soviet policy on questions of physical culture. It was on their advice that certain sports were prohibited, and football, boxing and weight-lifting were all omitted from the programme of events at the First Trade Union Games in 1925. However the hygienists were far from unanimous in their condemnation of sport. V.V. Gorinevsky, for example, was an advocate of playing tennis which he saw as being an ideal physical exercise. Nikolai Semashko, a doctor and the People’s Commissar for Health, went much further arguing that sport was “the open gate to physical culture” which “develops the sort of will-power, strength and skill that should distinguish Soviet people.”

Proletkult
In contrast to the hygienists the Proletkult movement was unequivocal in its rejection of ‘bourgeois’ sport. Indeed they denounced anything that smacked of the old society, be it in art, literature or music. They saw the ideology of capitalism woven into the fabric of sport. Its competitiveness set workers against each other, dividing people by tribal and national identities, while the physicality of the games put unnatural strains on the bodies of the players.

In place of sport Proletkultists argued for new, proletarian forms of play, founded on the principles of mass participation and cooperation. Often these new games were huge theatrical displays looking more like carnivals or parades than the sports we see today. Contests were shunned on the basis that they were ideologically incompatible with the new socialist society. Participation replaced spectating, and each event contained a distinct political message, as is apparent from some of their names: Rescue from the Imperialists; Smuggling Revolutionary Literature Across the Frontier; and Helping the Proletarians.

Bolsheviks
It would be easy to characterise the Bolsheviks as being anti-sports. Leading members of the party were friends and comrades with those who were most critical of sport during the debates on physical culture. Some of the leading hygienists were close to Leon Trotsky, while Anotoli Lunacharsky, the Commissar for the Enlightenment, shared many views with Proletkult. In addition, the party’s attitude to the Olympics is normally given as evidence to support this anti-sport claim. The Bolsheviks boycotted the Games arguing that they “deflect workers from the class struggle and train them for imperialist wars”. Yet in reality the Bolshevik’s attitudes towards sport were somewhat more complicated.

It is clear that that they regarded participation in the new physical culture as being highly important, a life-affirming activity allowing people to experience the freedom and movement of their own bodies. Lenin was convinced that recreation and exercise were integral parts of a well-rounded life. “Young people especially need to have a zest for life and be in good spirits. Healthy sport – gymnastics, swimming, hiking all manner of physical exercise – should be combined as much as possible with a variety of intellectual interests, study, analysis and investigation… Healthy bodies, healthy minds!”

Unsurprisingly, in the aftermath of the revolution, sport would play a political role for the Bolsheviks. Facing internal and external threats which would decimate the working class, they saw sport as a means by which the health and fitness of the population could be improved. As early as 1918 they issued a decree, On Compulsory Instruction in the Military Art, introducing physical training to the education system.

This tension between the ideals of a future physical culture and the pressing concerns of the day were evident in a resolution passed by the Third All-Russia Congress of the Russian Young Communist League in October 1920:

“The physical culture of the younger generation is an essential element in the overall system of communist upbringing of young people, aimed at creating harmoniously developed human beings, creative citizens of communist society. Today physical culture also has direct practical aims: (1) preparing young people for work; and (2) preparing them for military defence of Soviet power.”

Sport would also play a role in other areas of political work. Prior to the revolution the liberal educationalist Peter Lesgaft noted that “social servitude has left its degrading imprint on women. Our task is to free the female body of its fetters”. Now the Bolsheviks attempted to put his ideas into practice. The position of women in society had already been greatly improved through the legalisation of abortion and divorce, but sport could also play a role by increasingly bringing women into public life. “It is our urgent task to draw women into sport,” said Lenin. “If we can achieve that and get them to make full use of the sun, water and fresh air for fortifying themselves, we shall bring an entire revolution in the Russian way of life.”

And sport became another way of conveying the ideals of the revolution to the working classes of Europe. The worker-sport movement stretched across the continent and millions of workers were members of sports clubs run mainly by reformist organisations. The Red Sports International (RSI) was formed in 1921 with the express intention of connecting with these workers. Through the following decade the RSI (and the reformist Socialist Worker Sports International) held a number of Spartakiads and Worker Olympics in opposition to the official Olympic Games. Worker-athletes from across the globe would come together to participate in a whole range of events including processions, poetry, art and competitive sport. There was none of the discrimination that marred the ‘proper’ Olympics. Men and women of all colours were eligible to take part irrespective of ability. The results were very much of secondary importance.

So, were the Bolsheviks anti-sport? They certainly did not seem to go as far as Proletkult’s fervent ideological opposition and, as we have seen, were prepared to utilise sport in the pursuit of wider political goals. No doubt there were many individual Bolsheviks who despised sports. Equally many will have greatly enjoyed them. Indeed, as the British secret agent Robert Bruce Lockhart observed, Lenin himself was a keen sportsman: “From boyhood he had been fond of shooting and skating. Always a great walker, he became a keen mountaineer, a lively cyclist, and an impatient fisherman.” Lunacharsky, despite his association with Proletkult, extolled the virtues of both rugby union and boxing, hardly the most benign of modern sports.

This is not to say that the party was uncritical of ‘bourgeois’ sport. It is clear that they tackled the worst excesses of sport under capitalism. The emphasis on competition was removed, contest that risked serious injury to the participants was banned, the flag-waving nationalist trappings endemic to modern sport disappeared, and the games people played were no longer treated as commodities. But the Bolsheviks were never overly prescriptive in their analysis of what physical culture should look like.

The position of the Bolsheviks in those early days is perhaps best summarised by Trotsky in the quote that opens this chapter. It was not for the party to decide what constituted the “best system of sports” or produce the correct line for the working class to follow. Rather it was for the mass of people to discuss and debate, experiment and innovate, and in that process create their own sports and games. Nobody could foresee exactly what the play of a future socialist society would be like, but equally no one could doubt that the need to play would assert itself. As Trotsky said, “The longing for amusement, distraction, sight-seeing and laughter is the most legitimate of human nature.”

Stalinism
The hopes of the revolution died, alongside thousands of old Bolsheviks, with the rise of Josef Stalin. The collectivist ideals of 1917 were buried, replaced by exploitation and brutal repression. Internationalism was jettisoned in favour of “socialism in one country”. As the values and imperatives of the society changed so too did the character of the country’s physical culture. By 1925 the Bolsheviks had already turned towards a more elitist model of sport. Around this time Stalin is reported to have said: “We compete with the bourgeoisie economically, politically, and not without success. We compete everywhere possible. Why not compete in sport?” Team sports reappeared, complete with capitalist style league and cup structures. Successful sportspeople were held up as heroes in the Soviet Union and the quest for records resumed. Many of the hygienists and Proletkultists who had dared to dream of new forms of physical culture perished in the purges.

Eventually sport became a proxy for the Cold War. In 1952 the Soviet Union was re-integrated into the Olympic movement ensuring that the medal table at each Games became a measure of the relative strength of East and West. As the country was inexorably compelled into economic, political and military competition on the international stage, so it also found itself drawn into sporting competition with the West.

Just as it would be a mistake to judge the ideals of the Russian Revolution by the horrors of Stalinism, so we should not allow the latter days of Soviet sport to obscure those remarkable early experiments in physical culture. Sport in Russia may have ended as a steroid-enhanced caricature, but how far removed that was from the vision of Lenin when he said: “Young men and women of the Soviet land should live life beautifully and to the full in public and private life. Wrestling, work, study, sport, making merry, singing, dreaming – these are things young people should make the most of.”

Growth of Action Sports and News

Sports and games, it has been indicated, have two separate meanings. This holds true even more for the action sports enthusiasts who believe that an activity in which they stand a chance of getting killed is a sport and the remaining are just games. Beginning with bull fighting, mountaineering, ice skating, surf boarding, rock climbing, ice climbing, water skiing, snow skiing, bungee jumping an hand gliding, are all classified under action sports. Action sports news was popularized by ESPN who made it a point to cover such extreme activities and helped pave the way for newer and more dangerous sports activities.

As time has progressed, action sports evolved too including sky diving, mountain biking, storm chasing have also been included in the list of extreme sports. As time evolves, this list also continues to grow with people experimenting to discover newer ways of getting the adrenalin rushing.

It has been a little difficult to classify what type of sport falls into this category. There have been instances when games such as Demolition derby and rugby have tried to masquerade as action or extreme sports. However, as adrenalin inducing and dangerous as these games may be, they would not fall into this category as they have a pretty traditional image. They also do not have the other pre-requisites that are mandatory to fall into the category of extreme sports which include, the desire and style to perform stunts as well as the high degree of speed that is required.

It should also be noted that action sports are more popular amongst the youth. Steering away from the conforms of authority, extreme sports are most popular amongst youngsters who look for an opportunity to steer clear of the norms presented by regular sports and head out to do something different.

Over the years there has been a paradigm shift in the definition of action sports as well. In the 1980’s this style of sport was becoming extremely popular and was marketed primarily as an adult sport. Slowly it became more popular amongst the youth and evolved into a youth sport. Along with this, extreme sports also brought along with itself an aura becoming a fashion trend of sorts, making the “outdoorsy Look” very popular.

Made commercial by X Games, action sports are most popular when they were televised. Competitions started becoming extremely popular and soon action sports were attracting advertisers and the media like bees to honey.

The potential of such sports has been aptly recognized by ESPN. As a pro active sports channel it has its finger of the pulse of the demographics associated with this sport. They cover all action sports news and create awareness about the new and fast becoming popular sports as well. From hurricane catching to extreme snowboarding, they come up with new and more interesting types of sports everyday.

Though action sports are able to give one an adrenalin rush and a high like nothing else, there is a very high level of danger associated with it as well. As these activities involve a very high degree of speed, dexterity, physical exertion, heights and sometimes specialized gears as well as incredulous stunts, massive injury and sometimes death can also be a part of this package.

The Sports Betting Game – Picking A Good System For The Sports Betting Game – Part 1

Plenty of people love betting on sports. When you play the sports betting game, you need to know how to win. A few people that I know, don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to betting on the sports. I’ll ask them a question like, “How do you make your picks?” Usually, I’ll get 1 of 3 answers from them.

1. I heard them on a sports radio show.

2. I heard about them from a “friend”.

3. I searched for free picks on the internet.

Really, a lot of people place their bets this way. With strategies like that, how often do you expect to win? If you followed strategies like that, you could probably win some of the time, but I doubt you would win most of the time. To play the sports betting game, you have to understand how to bet on the sports. Usually, a sports betting system is what you need to have consistent success.

I know that many people are definitely skeptical about any type of system that claims to have success. Why shouldn’t they be skeptical? But, there are some systems that do work. There are probably many systems that work for sports bettors.

If you look at it, there are tons of people who consistently make money from the bets they place, and their are tons of people that consistently lose money from the bets they place. What’s the difference between these two groups of people? The winners use a sports betting system! They hold the key to the sports betting game and how to bet on the sports! That’s what separates these people.

To win consistently win on the bets you place, it is very important that you invest your time in finding a sports betting system that actually works. This is the only way to consistently profit and grow your bankroll with the sports bettors. Placing winning bets is not the hardest thing in the world to do, as long as you have a system to pick the winners for you.

Why We Watch Sports – (And It’s Not What You Think)

Whether you want to believe it or not, we like to watch sports for very different reasons than you may think. In fact, the real things that cause us to like sports are in every person, whether we like sports or not. What things can we learn about human nature by simply looking at our fascination with competition? The answers may surprise you. Not only are the answers interesting in themselves, but they may just help you in other ways too.

There are some fairly straightforward and obvious explanations for why we like sports to be sure. Sports teach us about loyalty, perseverance and honor. It gives us a way to bond, it’s cathartic, and we identify with teams and players. We live vicariously through the players we watch. We have our favorite players, and there are teams we’ve grown up rooting for because our brother or dad used to love them, and now we still root for them today. Or we may follow a sport now that we used to play as a child.

But there are some deeper, more powerful and fascinating reasons too.

We’re All Just Big Children

Whether you want to believe it or not, all adults are just big children. We’re all just big kids. We just hide our true feelings and thoughts with highly developed skills (or at least most of us do). We still want to belong or be accepted by our peers, we all still want to be loved, we still feel emotional pain, and we still find ourselves giving in to immediate gratification when we know better. And yes, some of us still lie and cheat in our normal day to day lives.

We certainly hide things better and often successfully ‘act’ as if we don’t care about belonging, or love, or pain, or whatever. Deep down inside we are a little more mature and wise, but basically still just children. We may not say it out loud anymore, but we still think to ourselves sometimes, “That’s not fair!” We would rather play than work. Some may argue, depending on whether they pee standing up or sitting down, that this is especially true for men. Maybe that’s why there are more men sports fans than women.

You see, watching sports gives us a perfect, safe and secure, black and white, little microcosm of life. Following a player, team or game allows us to experience ups and downs and a whole array of emotions, just like in real life, but we aren’t actually affected.

And unlike life, sports and games are generally fair! There are rules and a crystal clear framework, or paradigm that all the participants and spectators know about. There are never any monkey wrenches thrown into a sports game, like the rules changing mid-game for instance. If rules are broken, the offender is penalized. They don’t frustratingly get away sometimes like in real life.

At the end, there is an unambiguous winner and loser. We get to pretend that the game we’re watching is life, where everything is perfectly fair, everyone plays by the rules and everything makes sense.

Children tend to think of things in much more black and white terms. It is only through living and maturing that we realize that all of life is a series of grays. But we all still long for a simpler and easier life. When things are only seen in black or white, things indeed seem simpler and easier, but life isn’t so clear-cut.

This helps explain why politicians who break their platform down into simple sound bites and into terms devoid of complexity often do better than politicians who talk about life like it really is, a complex, interrelated world of nuances.

Watching sports allows us a temporarily safe and socially acceptable way to be more like our true nature, and our true nature is frighteningly childlike. So the next time you deal with a difficult person, remember that they are just a large child, like you and everyone else, and maybe that knowledge will help you deal with them a little more easily.

What do watching a horror movie and sports have in common?

Ever wonder why so many people, including maybe you, enjoy watching horror movies so much? They provide a safe way for people to experience high levels of suspension without actually being in any real danger. Sports can be the same way. Again, watching sports allows us to enter a perfect world where the suspenseful outcome has no bearing on our real lives (unless you have a nasty sports gambling problem of course).

People love drama, suspension, and resolution, which are all elements inherent in sports. In fact, the closer the game, the more suspension there is. If we identify with a player and he wins, we are vicariously happy for the success. However, if the player’s team loses, we feel the defeat a little as well. But our lives are unaffected. And sports announcers usually only add to the drama and suspension.

A sports game is a sort of story. There is a beginning and an end. There is a protagonist (your team) and an antagonist (the other team). There is a scene and setting, the stadium at noon, and there is a plot, which is the action. Only after the games ends, and depending on if your team won or not, is it decided to be called a fairy tale ending or a tragedy.

Reptilian Brain and War

Whether you want to believe it or not, humans are a lot closer to nature and the animal world than most people like to think. We’re not just close to nature; we’re a part of it! Evolutionarily speaking, we are much closer in time to our unintelligent animal ancestors than we are to a transcended sentient species apart from nature. Our behavior is guided much more by our ‘primitive brain’ than our more recently developed neocortex, which is the seat of our intelligence. The primitive brain, or lower brain function, deals with fight or flight behavior, hunger, fear, and sex, among other things.

A common, yet erroneous concept is that the human brain is the result of billions of years of evolution. Our primitive or reptilian part of the brain is that old, but our brain’s extra large neocortex, the thing that separates us from other mammals, came about only a couple million years ago, a mere drop in the evolutionary bucket. The neocortex has not had much time to develop, and so our primitive brain plays a significant role in our lives.

Our basic flight or fight mentality is manifested in sports. We can relate, on some deeper and unconscious level, with the guy running with the football towards the end zone and being chased by a pack of angry men. We can understand what it feels like to check another player in hockey and slam him into the boards. Or we can sympathize with the NASCAR driver who gets passed by a competitor, but throws it into a higher gear and chases after him.

Our primitive desire for dominance is represented in sports. When our team wins, we experience a sort of dominance over the opposing team and their fans.

Our predatory nature is lit up when we see a linebacker following a running back through a mass of football players, waiting for the perfect moment to strike his prey with a tackle. Watching someone chase the man with the ball in basketball, soccer, or baseball affects us in similar ways.

Our tribal instincts are fulfilled by sports. We all want to belong to something; it’s a basic human need since we are such social animals. We identify with a team like our ancestors would identify with their tribe. This is especially true for the Western world’s modern man, where community has taken a back seat to independence.

Our primitive warring nature is satisfied by sports. There seems to be an innate desire for war, even in so-called ‘modern’ man. Indeed, look at the world today and how many current wars are going on, and you’ll see how far we are to real peace. Pathetically, that last statement holds true for almost any time in history, regardless of when you’re reading this. Again, this goes back to the fact that we are ruled more by our ‘primitive’, survival-driven, fight or flight brain than our reasonable and intelligent ‘modern’ brain.

Every sports game is like a tiny war between tribes, with an end and a declared victor. But there’s one important distinction; unlike war, no one has to die in sports.

One of the reasons going to a game is more exciting than watching it on TV is that there is a kind of energy created when so many people get together and root for one cause. You might even liken it to a mob mentality. We don’t have to look farther than our own stadiums where pandemonium has broken out in protest to a call or in celebration of a win. Sports strongly appeals to the gaming and struggle instincts of humans.

And since our modern lives no longer contain any real physical danger and all our basic needs are immediately taken care of, we now have a void that needs to be filled somehow, our primitive brain expects it. Sports fit the bill. It gives us the illusion of reality where there are no consequences. It gives us the illusion of battle, war, victory and defeat, without the consequences. And it gives us the illusion of being a child again, even if it’s all temporary.

You may not like sports at all, but we are all a quite childlike inside. We all yearn for some level of drama in our lives. And we are all constantly affected by our primitive brain. Watching sports is one excellent way for people to reconcile these inescapable facts.

Demand of Sports and Games Apps in Modern World

Stuck in a traffic jam or getting bored in the office, mobile phones can come to our rescue. Mobile games have been one of the best additions to our lives. Today mobile game development is a multibillion-dollar industry. Game developers crack their brains to bring us newer apps with improved experience and features. Since the days of the snake games, mobile apps have come a long way. With improved handset features and processing capabilities, they are giving PC games a run for their money. Sports and games apps have become the fashion of the modern world.

The world of mobiles is changing a lot. Once regarded as a tool for interaction now has turned in to a massive body with a wide range of application ranging from business to movies and entertainment.Mobile games apps has changed the way people opinion towards games both on a professional as well as on a personal front. Now people are playing games like never before. With the help of apps not only we can play the latest version of the game we can also keep an eye on the latest happenings in the sporting world. We can check the scores and sometimes watch the sports match live on our mobile phone. Considering the huge popularity of mobile games, all the mobile manufacturers are giving better functionality to their devices to make their phones compatible with different types of games available in the gaming sector. Sports and games apps have changed the whole structure of the modern world mobile applications.

There is a tremendous demand of online sports and games apps among people of all age groups. So, even a business with limited budget is now stepping into the world of games online. It has become an instant hit among all types of business sectors.

The businesses are using specific themes and there are various categories of Smartphone games available such as sports, action, adventure, racing, table-top, puzzle, hidden-object, educational and simulation games. Moreover, there are multi-player games introduced in the industry that allows users to play with their social circle even from their mobiles. The aim is to attract the attention of users and engage them to become their regular visitors or customers.

Some of the Android apps which have been very popular among the masses have been

a) Sporting News Pro Football
b) CBS Sports Pro Football
c) NBA Game Time Lite 2009-10
d) F1 LIVE RACING
e) ESPN Score Center
f) Sports Radio Droid

So, since the preference of the people keeps on changing the recent boom in mobile gaming sector just seems to be the perfect medicine for the live full of stress and tension. Seeing all these things one thing is for sure that the market is going to be flooded with the latest apps and it will provide a very nice option for the consumers to choose according to their need and demand.

The Irony of Sports Video Games

Most people will agree that playing a sport is one of the best ways to keep active and healthy. It’s exercise with a more entertaining purpose. And there is no denying just how popular sports are. They are a bit part of the American culture and a good part of many other countries’. It’s also then no surprise just how popular sports video games are, either. Of course, there’s a lot of irony in that. They are complete opposites.

Sports video games do promote some things. If played with friends, there’s the social interaction of them. It would be like watching a game with buddies. But even watching the game lacks activity that playing it in real life provides.

The good thing is that a lot of kids that do play the sports video games also play the sport or a sport in real life. They’re active young athletes that just like to have a little fun at home or a friend’s house. It’s also a great thing for rainy or snowy days. It could even help improve their own play and understanding of the rules.

The bad thing is that there are some parents that don’t promote the real thing enough. They might just think that because it’s a sports game that it will get the kid excited about going outside to really play it. This isn’t always the case. A parent doesn’t have to stop allowing his or her child to play the game, but the parent should promote outdoor activities too.

It’s quite funny when you think about it. The fascination and fixation of many outdoor sports has lead to the creation of indoor activities and ways to experience them. There are even video game tournaments. You can’t blame these people though. Sports has just grown a part of their life as it has for many others.

I may not understand the fascination with playing a sports game or watching it on TV over playing it in real life, but it’s still good. Everyone has their own preferences. I just hope we don’t become too unattached from the real world as a society and start making simulations of other things. It’s bad enough we already watch too much TV, a lot of it pointless and repetition of already successful things. I’m not the most active person in the world, or biggest sports fan, but I still believe its more fun to play it in real life than do anything a video game or TV can about the sport.