sports gazette

Where does sport end and art begin?

Art from Paine Proffitt (used with permission from the artist)
Published: 8 Jun 2017

Sport has been immortalised in art for thousands of years, but is it getting enough appreciation in modern times?

“I think the arts and sports are still in their own separate circles but there's an overlap and a common ground where both can mingle comfortably,” said Paine Proffit, an American visual artist based in England.

He said: “The old cliché of sports being for unintelligent, unenlightened, uncultured, yobbish, bullying knuckle-draggers is so silly but still might linger in some circles.

“Sport has become so engrained in our society, so big money and so celebrity/pop culture-focused that it's unavoidable that sports have become a part of our cultural fabric and that it's a great possible theme for the arts. I think there's another element of sports that focuses on the personal, the emotional and the nostalgic that makes it a beautiful theme for artwork, that people embrace.”

It extends to literature too. Although sports writing has long been part of daily newspapers, the creative writing community has found inspiration on playing fields across the world.

SportLiterate, a literary journal based in Michigan, USA, is creating a space for people to reflect on sport, why they love it, and how it has affected their life through creative nonfiction.

Founded in Chicago in 1995, SportLiterate publishes pieces that are “honest reflections on life’s leisurely diversions”. It is currently supported by 19 consecutive grants from the Illinois Arts Council. Work published in SportLiterate have received more that 20 nods in renowned anthologies such as The Best American Sports Writing and The Best American Essays.

Founder and editor-in-chief William Meiners told Sports Gazette “For us, sport has always been the springboard for artistic reflections.”

Although it is an American-based publication, SportLiterate accepts submissions from other countries. Last year, they published three Canadians, an English expatriate in Germany and a poet from Israel.

“People sometimes ask what “sports” we’re publishing,” Mr Meiners said.

“In that sense, the sport doesn’t matter. We’re looking for the great writing that reflects on it.”

He remains optimistic about the future of sport in literature.

“As more writers and poets view sports as something more than a weekend pastime, I think you’ll see better and better writing within that genre.”

Dance blends art and sport together well, as performers condition their bodies with hours of training just to tell a story through their movements.

Even ballet -a style long considered delicate and creative- has made headlines for being part of a conditioning programme for a brutal game.

Wigan Warriors U19 Academy rugby team were featured on BBC earlier this spring for their weekly ballet lessons.

Rugby and ballet are arguably two of the most well-conditioned and physically exhausting sports, but how exactly can Ballet benefit full-contact rugby?

According to a study conducted by the RFU, lower limbs account for an astounding 54.1% of injuries sustained in an academy and 47% in school groups.

Ballet strengthens muscles and improves flexibility, which makes the players more agile on the pitch and increases the quality of their performance.

Because ballet training includes extensive stretching, players who partake are more limber, so hours of pliés may just pay off on the pitch for these young players.

The line between athletic endeavours and what are considered “traditional” art forms are blurring. Many fans are focused on the game and the grit and forget that there is something beautiful and inspired in sport and the way the athletes move. Luckily, artists, writers, photographers, dancers and other creatives open our eyes to what we may miss and immortalise it into something that could last forever.

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