The sausage principle, according to the British comedian John Oliver, says that if you love something you should not ask how it was made. Oliver used it to illustrate the contradiction he felt when remembering that a sport he adores, football, is controlled by an organisation as corrupt as FIFA. I stumbled across the video at a time when, as a result of the protests in Brazil against the celebration of the 2014 Men's Football World Cup, I decided to stop watching football matches.
I had scheduled my revision for the university entrance exam so that my breaks would coincide with the broadcast of matches of a Men's World Cup and now here I was, consumed by an existential debate about my strength of reason and my sense of duty in the face of the temptation to yield to pleasure and emotion. Before John Oliver warned me, I'd already dared to look inside the sausage.
Not only did it bother me, as it still does, the way in which professional men's football has been commercialised -which we have had a taste of with the arrest of Villar, the Neymar affair or the scuffles Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have had with the Treasury-, but also some of the ways we tell its stories. A sports journalism teacher told me that a part of the sector's press was corporate, especially that of Barça and Madrid. Besides agreeing with him, I think that in some cases the preference is for gossipy stories full of curiosities and varnished with institutionalism, corporatism and heroism, sometimes in the tone of the patrons of a bar, in which we, women, are a reward for the efforts of the heroes. Part of this inertia comes from within the media, publishing news about Barça because it's Barça, or with sporadic announcements of shame it alienates in favour of the team. If sport has unavoidably to have a privileged place in the information landscape -and this we should start to discuss, frankly-, then let's make sure that at least the information is relevant, rigorous and represents the variety of sports that exist and the diversity of people that play them. But not does every single one of FC Barcelona's historical achievements need to be commemorated with a documentary, when there are other male and female athletes in Catalonia who excel at an international level.
For this reason I have always admired those sport journalists who tell stories that go beyond worthless marketing. Articles in which the reader can find out about the very latest news and understand aspects like the social impact sport has and what techniques, craft and preparation there is behind the athletes' efforts. They tell you about the results, but also about the huge efforts that many water polo or handball players have to make to continue competing. They show you how the Cold War was played on hockey pitches and they explain the foundations of the Russian supremacy in synchronised swimming.
Perhaps I am projecting what I see in sport onto what I consider the sports press should be. Who knows. Deep down, what attracts me to sport is the human being's ability to overcome their limits and to create art with a racquet, with water up to their neck or hanging from the uneven bars, and how the group watching this takes in this effort until they subjectively become one with it. And this, of course, is also true of men's football. Three years after my existential dilemma, my consumption of and, above all, my emotional investment in the sport have not disappeared, but they have drastically reduced. Let's say that I've detoxed. I watch matches when I want to socialise, or to support women's football, but not much more. If the Barça men's team is playing well again, I will watch them from time to time, because I love to admire things being done well. And if they're playing badly, I will continue ignoring them like I have been. Right now, there are sportspeople with as much, or more, ability to offer us a good time full of nerves, glory, disappointment and, above all, admiration. So nor is it a big deal.