If you are interested in the origins of sport or the role of sport in society, here’s a must-read story by John Noble Wilford in today’s NY Times. Wilford interviews several scholars who have forthcoming books on sport in ancient Greece. Among them, Ancient Greek Athletics by Stephen G. Miller, Professor of Classical Archaeology at Berkeley. There are numerous interesting observations in Wilford’s story. I will quote just one tidbit, which suggests that the modern tailgate party is a pale imitation of the real thing:
Dr. Miller reconstructs the scene at one of the Panhellenic games in 300 B.C., the heyday of Greek organized athletics. For days before the first races, crowds feasted on the meat of oxen roasted on altar fires, sacrifices overseen by a priest and accompanied by a flutist, a libation pourer and libation dancers. People pitched hundreds of tents across fields and thick smoke from campfires filled the air.
A friend from Stanford visited Clemson last fall for the Florida State game. He was in thrall of the “pagan ritual” on display before the game and after. But as always, we have much to learn from the masters of the art form, the ancient Greeks.