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David Macfarlane (CA)

On Sports

On Sports

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What are sports, really? What do we love about them? And what, in our digital age, have they become?

As a child, David Macfarlane was an avid sports fan—and yet he almost never saw an athletic competition live. Despite the dusty collection of sports equipment in the basement, his parents had little interest in playing or watching sports, televised games were subject to local blackouts, and poor analog reception made hockey pucks disappear in electric snow. Instead, Macfarlane pored daily over the sports pages and brought box scores to school for Current Events, traded the rumours and predictions of sportswriters with his friends, collected trading cards and played sandlot versions of baseball, football and street hockey. Each of these endeavours took place primarily on the boundless fields of the imagination, the thing professional sport, Macfarlane argues, today sorely lacks—so much so that now he’ll as soon profess to loathe sports as to love them.

In On Sports, the latest in the Field Notes series, journalist David Macfarlane considers the origins of his love of sport against his discomfort with their commodification. From the pirates, gangsters, and extortionist hooligans of the International Olympic Committee, to the National Hockey League’s capitulation to online gambling, to the ballooning of salaries and dumbed-down spectacle that characterize professional competition, to his enduring affection for athletic competition and the athletes who continue to dazzle in spite of it all, Macfarlane asks what sports really are, what it is that we love about them, and what, exactly, they have become.

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David Macfarlane's family memoir, The Danger Tree, was described by Christopher Hitchens as "one of the finest and most intriguing miniature elegies that I have read in many a year." Macfarlane's novel, Summer Gone, was short-listed for the Giller Prize. Based on The Danger Tree, "The Door You Came In," a two-man show (co-written and performed with Douglas Cameron) has been produced, to acclaim, from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Stratford, Ontario. Macfarlane lives in Toronto with his wife, the designer, Janice Lindsay.

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