Hitting something with a club is a very simple business, like chasing a spool. Up to a point, and on occasion, it is a satisfying thing to do. There are golf driving ranges and baseball-throwing machines which do a good business serving men and women who want to hire a club and something to hit with it. This is a pastime rather than a sport, however, and few would bother to go to a driving range except to improve themselves at the regular game of golf, which is a complex, highly organized amusement, and this fact supplies a clue to a fundamental difference between man and the amoeba.
Both man and the amoeba have a common, overriding problem?control of their environment. The amoeba has kept his problem minor by being easily satisfied. Almost any old wet place will do for him and he takes such food as comes along, never sending anything back to the kitchen. His reproductive method works fine. Everything comes out even. You divide one by two and you get two. The amoeba does not have to prove to himself that he is a good amoeba, good at controlling his environment.
But men do have to prove that they are good. They do not reproduce by splitting themselves in two. Theirs is a more complicated arrangement, involving partnership deals and provision for proper rearing of the young. Very often the world environment, as the afternoon papers are quick to point out, is not suited to this purpose. The business of living is likely to raise doubts, fears and anxieties in the higher animals, whereas the amoeba is always supremely confident of his ability to handle any situation. He is suited to his way of life and he is immortal.
But move up the evolutionary scale a bit and you find that there is constant need for reassurance. A dog requires a bit of applause when he has done a good job of bringing in the bird. To another animal this might be a poor, reward for giving up a duck dinner, but a dog understands glory.
It is an artificial arrangement, this business of a man shooting a bird and a dog retrieving it for him, and that is what makes it a sport. A sport is a design for living in an artificial environment, hedged with self-imposed disciplines and filled with the fear of failure and the hope of success.
While the chancelleries strive to control the world environment of man, individual man can make a world of his own?in the shape of a baseball diamond, a football field, a tennis court or a golf course. There he observes the special rules of artificial life and death. He lives to glory if he breaks par and then, refreshed with intimations of immortality, returns to his desk and the problems of the real world, purged for a little while of doubt and fear, pleasantly aware that there are areas where be is master of his fate and captain of his soul.
This is all based on the assumption that the greens committee is not a pack of idiots.
That which diverts
Since the word sport means, among other things, "that which diverts and makes mirth," it is a pleasure to salute Christopher John Chataway, runner extraordinary, partaker of the good life and sportsman.
Chataway is the orange-haired young Englishman who paced Roger Bannister to the first sub-four-minute mile and then chased John Landy to a time that was even better than Bannister's. Without detracting from the skills and accomplishments of either Bannister or Landy, it must be pointed out that appreciation of their deeds is inextricably bound up with knowledge of Bannister's utter exhaustion and his wry comment, "I had no idea it would be so hard," and with Landy's gaunt face and frame and his almost fanatic racing campaign. The over-all effect is one of labor, effort and fatigue. Chataway, while one of the world's great distance runners in his own right (especially at two and three miles, has a casual, almost carefree approach to the whole business of running.