The ‘sweet tension of uncertainty’ #wrwc

There has been much discussion in the philosophy of sport about what makes a ‘good game’ and the conclusion seems to be best expressed by Sigmund Loland who uses the phrase ‘the sweet tension of uncertainty of outcome’ (p149, Fair Play in Sport).

Essentially, this means that ‘good games’ are those in which the result is always in doubt; the higher the level of doubt, the greater the anticipation of a ‘good game’. It perhaps is also a psychological reason why we (as non-partisan observers) root for the ‘underdog’; we want to convince ourselves that we will see a game where we simply don’t know what will happen. At the very least, it makes life more interesting.

And so on day 2 of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, I’m once again hoping that there really is the ‘sweet tension of uncertainty of outcome’; I don’t want New Zealand to walk over Australia, and I’d like to see Kazakhstan shake England up a bit. It’ll take just one match going against the odds to put the question of doubt in everyone’s minds about all the other matches; the whole tournament will take on a different perspective.

And when nothing is certain, the tension will taste all the sweeter.

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Why I am excited about the Women’s Rugby World Cup

The women’s rugby world cup will start on Friday and I can’t wait. The anticipation I feel is almost too much to bear. Why? It’s not because I’m particularly patriotic and look forward to lauding England’s superiority in a post-colonial world, as I’m secretly hoping for an upset in the pool stages – maybe Sweden or Kazakhstan will pull off the surprise of the tournament. It’s not that I am desperate to watch some high quality rugby, although for the sake of the game itself I hope the games are compelling on account of the skill level. It’s not even because it is out of term time and I need something to occupy my attention; if only that were true. The reason I am counting down the days, hours and minutes is that I’ve become involved in the women’s rugby world cup narrative.

What I mean by this is that I’ve been following the ‘tweets’, watching the youtube videos, reading the articles on various websites and news outlets, and I’ve found myself starting to care about the characters and the developing story-lines. I’ve become emotionally engaged in it because the characters have been unfolding and it has started to mean something to me; I want to know what happens next.

This is where the media play a hugely important role in women’s sport. Too often the excuse for not reporting women’s sport (perhaps tennis and athletics excepting) is that no-one is interested. The trouble is, that people don’t get interested in things unless they know about them and become involved in the background stories and narratives. As I’ve commented elsewhere, this is where the BBC (in it’s capacity as a public service) has a moral obligation. They need to recognise that engagement only begins after exposure. (Actually, the BBC know this full well otherwise they would never ‘trailer’ anything – how often have you seen the trailer for BBC online news on the television?!)

The reason that so many non-football fans watch the men’s world cup, or that we end up watching some obscure Olympic sport is wholly down to subtle (or non so subtle) manipulation and exposure via television, radio and the web for months beforehand. Once the mainstream media start to do this with women’s sport, then the interest and enthusiasm generated will snowball.

This is what has happened to me and my thirst for the women’s rugby world cup over the last few months in this new age of social media. I’ve become engaged, involved and I want more…