A talk entitled "The Radical Transformation of Sport in America" by Dave Meggyesy. It took place at a Rising Up Angry outreach program called Friends of Angry held at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church at 2747 N. Wilton Ave in Chicago. Rising Up Angry was a youth revolutionary activist group in the 1960s and 1970s. Meggysey was an American football player turned union organizer and author of Out Of Their League, an autobiographical look at football that was critical of the sport's dehumanizing aspects and pro-capitalist values. In this tape, Meggyesy gives specific examples of the ways in which he feels organized sports in America dehumanize people, and also answers some questions from the audience.
0:01Copy video clip URL A visually distorted shot fragment of Dave Meggyesy speaking: “The couch doesn’t play the game, you play the game. You have a certain measure of power, just gotta get it organized.”
0:10Copy video clip URL Meggyesy talks about the abuse a player will accept from a couch, when they wouldn’t accept it otherwise. He says this is even more significant when the team members, who normally would be supportive and friendly, turn their backs when the couch comes down on one of the members, and this undercuts a sense of trust a cooperation between people. He says this kind of distrust created when others don’t stand up to abuses of power causes a lot of problems in other realms of society, citing a lack of trust between men and women, and a lack of trust between racial groups. He says this division is beneficial for the ruling class because then we can’t organize against them.
4:08Copy video clip URL He talks about the dialectic between “I and the social reality,” and says one of the ways we’ve been denied the ability to do this necessary process is through “alienation of our bodies.” He says everyone was an athlete at some point, and has some primal feeling of athletics even if its just the joy of running as a child, but then sex roles begin to disrupt this: women are cut out of sports, and people are slowly pared away because they’re not “the best” and thus lose their positive feelings about their bodies. In the end, a very specific section of males are the athletic elite, and they get special privileges and honors in high school. He talks about how this makes others feel alienated, but that also the athletes are facing their own alienation and conditioning that will make them willing to accept abuse and humiliation from a couch. The athlete becomes the supermasculine archetype: a killer, an abuser of women, etc.
11:05Copy video clip URL The camera gathers shots of the crowd as Meggyesy continues to speak. He is narrating a play in a football game—it sounds like he is illustrating what happened on the chalkboard but since the camera is on the crowd it is difficult to follow what it’s about. The camera cuts again to Meggyesy at the podium and he talks about hearing an opposing players’ knee blow out, and how his first thought was, “Man, what a tremendous block.” He continues on about how his first reaction was how great that was, how much praise he’s going to receive for the block, etc. until finally the other guy screamed in pain and it finally registered that he had seriously injured someone. He says he had “this very peculiar feeling of, on one hand, ‘My god, what have I done? Who is this guy?’ but on the other hand feeling, ‘Jesus, I made a great block.’ Now when I talked in Out Of Their League about dehumanizing, that’s what I mean.” He says he never visited the man he hurt, or even bothered to learn his name, and that when we teach that kind of mentality to people, it’s a disservice.
15:50Copy video clip URL Cut to Meggyesy in the middle of another story about a game. The message is that “In some sense, you should begin to view your opponent as more than a brother than your teammate, because without him you could never do it. You could never play without your opponent. Yet over and over and over again, athletes, as all of us, are systematically taught that we’ve gotta start hating the other guy in a fundamental way.” He says that the important fundamental shift in consciousness is viewing things as a collective rather than an individual matter. He says like many aspects of our lives, Sport “has been taken over and ripped off by capitalist greed heads,” but that we shouldn’t just throw them away like many leftists have. “We don’t throw away the idea of education because schools are bad, we take over the schools.”
18:46Copy video clip URL Another cut mid-sentence. He is talking about the positive values that the athletic experience could produce. He quotes a woman athlete speaking to other women, saying, “It affords you the opportunity to get back in touch with and control of your body material, your being material, which you inhabit and run around in every day.” He goes on to talk about sports in China and Cuba.
21:14Copy video clip URL The camera records a child as he runs around the meeting space. Meanwhile, Meggyesy continues to talk about sports in Cuba.
22:45Copy video clip URL Meggyesy opens it up to questions for the audience. The camera cuts to a man asking about athletes being put on a pedestal. It again cuts to Meggyesy, who gives the example of a team owner who is also a slum lord in Chicago, and says that sports organizations “are run by veritable fascists.” He says that his own personal commitment is to athletics itself, and certainly not to the people running the organizations. He continues to talk about the importance for structural changes.
25:13Copy video clip URL Cut to a man mid-question about the athletic elite, saying that part of the process also turns the rest who fail to be the best into spectators, and says he thinks that the spectators undergo a similar processes as the players to hate each other. Meggyesy agrees, and gives some examples. He also talks about the decision to play football after Kennedy was assassinated.
28:55Copy video clip URL Meggyesy answers a question about AstroTurf and why it’s a problem, saying that it is harder than grass and players are more likely to sustain injuries like knee sprains on it, and that it is very hot in summer. It is, however, more cost effective to maintain, which is why owners want to use it.
30:18Copy video clip URL A man asks about racism in sports. There is a jump cut to Meggyesy talking about Curie High School in Chicago, which he says is trotted out to dignitaries because it’s very diverse, but how even that school lost its women’s sports spaces and the women athletes protested and had to be dragged out by police. He begins to give another example about the University of Illinois but is cut off when the tape ends.